Groups seek justice for slain human rights lawyer

September 19, 2021

Nearly 100 organizations in the Philippines on September 18 have signed a statement calling for justice for a murdered human rights lawyer in South Cotabato.

“For all of us, the killing of Atty. [Juan] Macababbad should be seen as a brazen act of violence, an utter disregard for life, and a violent form of silencing of those who defend human rights,” the groups said.

The groups said the killing of Macababbad “is a loss of a fellow human rights defender, who committed his services for the poor people.” 

Macababbad, vice-chairperson of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), was shot dead in front of his house by two unidentified assailants.

He suffered several gunshots in the head and was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

He is the 58th lawyer killed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, according to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers. 

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, however, said Mcababbad was the 65th lawyer who has been killed since Duterte assumed the position in 2016. 

The groups said the “deepening of the culture of violence, the demonization of human rights and the lack of accountability and justice” are the “legacy of the Duterte government.” 

The groups said Macababbad “is more than a statistic” for the Indigenous People and the rural poor who he had represented and assisted.

“His killing meant a loss to their access to justice. His killing meant them being more vulnerable to manipulation of the legal process of corporations, and even state forces,” the statement read. 

The slain lawyer was the legal counsel of indigenous tribesmen who were killed in Lake Sebu town in December 2018.

“We will continue to work towards breaking down impunity, and the lack of accountability, and work for a better, more humane society,” the group said. 

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