Poster targeting activists in the Philippines for "red-tagging." Photo from the International Lawyers' Delegation to the Philippines, March 2019

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) strongly denounces the red-tagging of the pro bono human rights lawyers’ organization National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) by the Philippine military.

The public statement of a certain high-ranking military official named Maj. Gen Antonio Parlade, Jr. suggesting that the NUPL, together with respected human rights, church and people’s organizations who are all well-meaning but critical of the Philippine government’s policies and programs, has supposed links with the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New Peoples’ Army is irresponsible, slanderous and legally punishable.

This unsupported claim without any specific and verifiable evidence that is reliable and credible exposes the human rights lawyers and the clients that they are defending to grave danger. Since the start of President Duterte’s term, we were informed that at least 36 lawyers, including judges and prosecutors, have been killed reportedly by reason or in relation to the performance of their professional work.

The suspected perpetrators include state security forces or their agents according to a recent international delegation of lawyers.

The red tagging of the NUPL by the Philippine military violates Article 18 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990) that provides: “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their client’s causes as a result of discharging their functions.” Doing so would deprive the people of their access to justice and basic right to counsel guaranteed by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Such hate speech may also constitute a violation of Article 20 prohibiting advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. As a matter of fact, this is the exact opposite of what Article 16 of the Basic Principles mandate, i.e. governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions “without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.”

We also consider the long track record of the NUPL in defending pro bono the economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights of various persons and organizations as comendable. As an active member of the IADL, the NUPL has defended the rights and welfare, not only of the people in the Philippines but other oppressed peoples in other countries. All of these put to doubt the veracity of the accusations made by Gen. Parlade.

The IADL, through its Bureau, therefore, calls on the Philippine military to immediately cease and desist casting aspersions on the NUPL and the human rights lawyers and let them do their work and advocacy unhampered by such labelling.

The IADL also commits to marshall the broadest support of various legal organizations worldwide in putting a stop to these vicious attacks on our colleagues.

Finally, the IADL fully supports all legal actions and recourse in various domestic and international fora to make those responsible for these attacks accountable.#

Kuala Lumpur
6 April 2019

This Resolution was passed during the meeting of the IADL Bureau attended and participated in by lawyers from Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, France, Haiti, India, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, United States, and Vietnam.

The IADL was fonuded in 1946 and has consultative status as an NGO with the United Nations. It has individual and organizational members from more than 50 countries.