The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) blasted the unrelenting attacks on the organization, its affiliates, and its members. In the past two weeks, NUPL and its members have been red-tagged and labeled as members of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – New People’s Army (NPA) – National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
NUPL president Edre Olalia expressed concerns over this series of attacks. “Red-tagging may be viewed as a badge of honor for those who appreciate the value and role of being lawyers for the people. But in the real world out there, it is a stampmark that one can be fair game for vicious attacks from the intolerant, bigoted and despotic,” Olalia said.
On 22 February 2019, an anonymous list circulated around Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao tagging NUPL, its affiliate Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) and three women lawyers as members of the CPP-NDFP-NPA. Lawyers Czarina Musni, Beverly Musni, and Beverly Ann Musni Yr. were among 19 individuals and four organizations tagged as communists. The Musnis are intensely involved in human rights cases and public interest advocacies.
On the same day, The Daily Tribune publisher Ninez Cacho-Olivares in her column called NUPL and Olalia as leftists and “commies” for their statement criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the third extension of Martial Law rule in Mindanao. NUPL represents the Makabayan bloc in the petition. Once again, Olivares falsely and maliciouy claims NUPL “never wins its cases in court.”
Five days after, Mario Laude of the “No to Communist Terrorist Group Coalition” linked the NUPL to NDFP chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili. In the news report published by the Manila Bulletin under the by-line of the Philippine News Agency Laude said that NUPL is the “legal (arm)” of a “Communist Terrorist Group” referring to NDFP. Aside from this ridiculous and baseless link, the shady group is inciting reprisal.
“This series of attacks, bigoted and fantastic as they are, is not only disturbing but can be ominous of even worse things to come. It remains a challenge and clarion call though for human rights and public interest lawyers to stay the course and serve those who have less in life who have even lesser in law,” Olalia said.
Thirty-six lawyers, judges and prosecutors have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office on 30 June 2016. In November 2018, human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos was killed by two unidentified men in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. Ramos was the secretary-general of NUPL-Negros Island chapter. NUPL’s Women and Children Committee head Kathy Panguban still faces false charges of kidnapping for assisting the mother to get custody of her minor son in Sagay.
Many other members of NUPL from Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Cordillera, Nueva Ecija, Metro Manila, Albay, Sorsogon, Negros, Iloilo, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Davao City and different parts of Mindanao are red-tagged, threatened, villified and under surveillance.
“It goes with the territory of siding with the underdog, the powerless and the victims of State negligence and abuses. But these will not slide without any consequences in time. We shall stand our ground,” Olalia concluded. #
Atty. Edre U. Olalia