Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno challenged the members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to “make a stand” and “defend human rights” amidst “increasingly glaring atmosphere of impunity” in the country.
In her speech at the Pagtugon sa Hamon summit organized by the IBP, Sereno called on the lawyers to pressure the government in upholding human rights especially in these “dangerous times.”
“Pressure is important, pressure must be continually built up, in all fora, venues and information platforms, for all public officers to respect human rights, to not issue any statement that encourages a disregard for human rights and to investigate human rights violations,” the chief magistrate said.
“Ultimately, you, the IBP, and the legitimate law and paralegal organizations must exert the same pressure on the police and the prosecution to solve and successfully prosecute the assailants and not leave it to just anyone who desires media mileage to own the issue of making the police accountable for unsolved murders, rapes, robbery and widespread thievery,” Sereno added.
Sereno also said that impunity is “endangered” because no one is being held accountable for the crimes that “hapless” citizens are suffering from.
The chief justice further explained that people expressed anger at impunity and for the apparent support for legal shortcuts, as well as summary executions.
“Means they are clamoring for genuinely effective police investigation, case buildup and successful prosecution,” Sereno said.
“And when murders and rapes are being committed in such frequency and gore, you must expect people to be angry…They will not understand if you try to protect the right to life by a drug suspect when the community is of the belief that drug addicts are the perpetrators of these crimes,” she added.
Sereno encouraged lawyers to lend their lives to the poor and oppressed, saying that the law’s calling is for the people’s cause.
“Make your stand, make your stand in such a way that no one will doubt that your hearts are with the Filipino people, let your voices be heard clearly as a call to our people to united and defend the freedoms that our forefathers dearly paid with blood for,” Sereno said.
“If you keep silent about these crimes, wittingly or unwittingly, you will be in the subconscious of our people, be considered as indirectly coplict to what they perceive to be as day to day impunity,” she added.
Sereno is facing impeachment raps filed by lawyer Larry Gadon for alleged culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes.