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Home Statement Remembering the Perils of Forgetting

Remembering the Perils of Forgetting

Remembering the Perils of Forgetting

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) greatly laments that its 16th founding anniversary is greeted with yet another news of the killing of a colleague in the legal profession. It condemns to the highest degree the murder of Atty. Maria Saniata Alzate, which increased the tally of lawyers killed to three since President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. assumed office. The NUPL firmly urges all law enforcement agencies to rigorously investigate this incident and, subsequently, bring to justice its perpetrators, echoing its earlier calls made in the wake of attacks on lawyers: Stop the Attacks! Atty. Alzate was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding assailants in broad daylight on September 14, 2023 as she was parking in front of her residence. Previously, Atty. Alzate provided exemplary legal assistance to a victim of illegal arrest, detention, and torture by members of the Philippine National Police in January 2023, for whom she was able to secure a Writ of Amparo issued by the Regional Trial Court in Abra. She was a former president of the Abra Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and once served as its Legal Aid Committee Chair. She had been providing pro-bono legal service to indigent litigants and has been serving as private prosecutor in the slaying of a teacher allegedly by a barangay chairperson.

The persistent climate of impunity renders possible these brazen, daylight killings of members of the legal profession, including judges and prosecutors. The NUPL cannot help but draw parallelisms between the killings of Atty. Alzate and the murders of two of its own members, Attys. Juan Macababbad and Ben Ramos. The three chose to tread the path least likely to be treaded – advocating for the poor and marginalized – because it is one that, as this most recent incident portends, presents the greatest dangers. However, it is also the path paved with the most nagging of imperatives for lawyers in a context plagued by stark economic inequalities, rampant violation of human rights, and unabashed corruption in government. 

Our milieu, as shown, is one of a constant state of emergency and unrest from the perspective of those condemned to the peripheries. It is the same soil from which the NUPL sprung forth in September 2007, responding to desperate calls for the formation of a potent force of human rights lawyers to respond to the spate of extra-judicial killings and criminalization of dissent observed during the regime of former President Gloria Arroyo. The persistence up to now of these attacks on lawyers, on human rights advocates, and on civil society leaders – by gun, by words, by trumped up charges – forcefully reminds us: the NUPL likewise persists to be relevant, its mission remains imperative, its doors continue to be open wide for those emboldened to confront the old and new injustices of our times. 

 The NUPL remembers the perils of forgetting. It is by forgetting the deaths of colleagues slain in the pursuit of their profession, the brutal killings engendered by the war on drugs, the death toll engendered by the September 21 martial law declaration of the “Marcos Dictatorship,” and other aggressions committed against the people that impunity reigns. And as it continues to plague us, two-bit commentators remain emboldened to red-tag critics and the opposition, politicians continue to be completely stripped of shame to demand that the people’s money be used beyond scrutiny, basic necessities and services persist to be out of reach to the already downtrodden, and graves shall continue to be filled with the bodies of social justice advocates, lawyers for the poor and marginalized, and even innocent bystanders while we, who dare to dissent or simply interrogate, are silenced.  

The NUPL extends its heartfelt sympathies to Atty. Alzate’s family for their loss. The NUPL mourns the loss of a colleague in the legal profession who was committed to serve the poor and marginalized. It joins her family’s call for others to carry the torch sparked by her spirit of service. The NUPL declares, on the occasion of its 16th founding anniversary, that it remains steadfast in its mission to pursue justice, work for the protection and promotion of human rights, defend those who dare speak truth to power, and imagine that a better world is possible for the people.##StoptheAttacks

References: Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez NUPL President +639172092943 Atty. Josalee S. Deinla NUPL Secretary General +639174316396