As a symbolic way to demand speedy justice for the victims of the Ampatuan town massacre, human rights law group, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), has directed all its 300 lawyer-members in the country to wear black armbands or ribbons especially whenever they appear in courts until the ‘butchers’ of 59 innocent civilians, journalists, and lawyers have been convicted.

The two lawyer-victims in the massacre, Atty. Concepcion Brizuela and Cynthia Oquendo, were active members in the NUPL and the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM). Atty. Brizuela was the UPLM treasurer at the time of her death.

The NUPL’s Committee for the Protection and Welfare of Lawyers said that the death of Attys. Brizuela and Oquendo brings the total number of lawyers and judges killed to 24 and 15, respectively, since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed power in 2001.

The Committee has made the directive as a means of showing to the public prosecutors handling the multiple murder charges against accused Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his cohorts, and to the judge hearing the same that human rights lawyers are keenly observing the status and developments of said cases to ensure the convictions of the accused.

Negotiations are likewise being made for the NUPL’s and UPLM’s lawyers to act as private prosecutors on behalf of the families of the slain lawyers. The groups’ lawyers are likewise willing to provide free legal services to the families of other victims if they would consider engaging the services of private prosecutors.

This December 9, Wednesday, NUPL’s lawyers and law students shall participate in the Global Day of Solidarity, a ‘march to end impunity and demand speedy justice for the victims of the massacre’, starting from the University of Santo Tomas to Chino Roces Monument in Mendiola, Manila together with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and human rights defenders.

The NUPL also strongly supports the call for the transfer of venue of the trial to a neutral ground, either in Manila or Makati City. The transfer of venue of criminal cases have been done previously in controversial cases like the Subic Rape case and the rebellion case against former Moro National Liberation Front chair Nur Misuari. Both cases have been tried in Makati City. A transfer of venue of the Ampatuan massacre trial may likely ensure impartiality of the judge and safety of prosecutors, witnesses and family members of the victims.#