It seems the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is producing even more chilling effects as it has “emboldened” police to secure a hit list—this time for lawyers representing “communist terrorist groups.”
The Calbayog City Police Station in Samar has gone viral after their chief of intelligence, Fernando Calabria, Jr., apparently sent a formal request to the Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC) in Brgy. Capoocan, Calbayog City.
The letter states that the RTC is asked to provide a “list of lawyers represent CTG personalities in the court”. The request letter defined CTG as communist terrorist groups.
Calbayong court confirms receiving request from police for list of lawyers handling cases of Communist Terrorist Group personalities “as compliance from higher PNP offices.”
— Anjo Cagmat Alimario (@anjocalimario) March 12, 2021
The Supreme Court has since confirmed the request, though no actions have been taken as of writing.
Supreme Court spox Brian Keith Hosaka confirms Calbayog RTC received this afternoon PNP’s request for a list of lawyers representing “Communist Terrorist Group” personalities, but says “no action has been made by them on the request.” | via @mikenavallo pic.twitter.com/Keiq1rhrrl
— ABS-CBN News (@ABSCBNNews) March 12, 2021
The letter also came with a “table” for the OCC to fill out with a controversial header on one of its columns: mode of neutralization.
Wtf Calbayog pa. https://t.co/oAFk8dOera
— Dakila Yee (@dakilakim) March 12, 2021
This column would draw questions from netizens, who are now alleging that the Philippine National Police (PNP) is acquiring a hit list of lawyers who represent activists supposedly involved with the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Given that a lawyer was stabbed in the face near the central police office in Iloilo City last week, the "mode of neutralization" really raises some eyebrows, don't you think? https://t.co/KZg6emHAbT
— Joseph Bernard A. Marzan (@josephbamarzan) March 12, 2021
Mode of neutralization????? https://t.co/Pm7MLasN27
— Barnaby Lo (@barnabychuck) March 12, 2021
The request was so controversial that it has reached the House of Representatives, where Bayan Muna representatives Carlos Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite have commented on the request.
Zarate said the request is “a clear and present danger to the legal profession”, siding with netizens that the PNP is indeed preparing a hit list of lawyers who represent progressive groups in court.
Zarate: This is a clear and present danger to the legal profession. This is an apparent hitlist for targetting lawyers being prepared by the national PNP down to its lower levels. | @JMAurelioINQ
— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) March 12, 2021
Gaite would ask about PNP’s authority to secure such a list in the first place.
The SC issued a circular addressed to judges for an inventory of attacks on lawyers. Now here comes PNP Calbayog DIRECTING Judges to list the names of lawyers handling "CTG" clients. May kapangyarihan ba kayo para gawin ito? Wala. pic.twitter.com/MUkoOseAQr
— Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite (@FerdinandGaite) March 12, 2021
This did not sit well even with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the country’s biggest collection of practicing lawyers.
IBP President Domingo Cayosa says they’re assured by top PNP Officials “there’s no directive to PLt Fernando G. Calabria, Jr., Chief Intel/SDEU of Calbayog Police or to any police unit to secure from the courts the names of lawyers representing suspected CTGs.” @cnnphilippines pic.twitter.com/KlLlzX0HFv
— Kim M. Badbadon(Mami Chikam) (@kimmbadbadon) March 12, 2021
In a statement, IBP president Domingo Cayosa said the letter is “improper, deplorable, and alarming.”
“The letter disregards the very basic principle that lawyers are free and even duty-bound to represent those accused regardless of political or ideological persuasions,” he added.
Cayosa also said he has been assured by top PNP officials that there is no directive to Calabria or any other police unit to secure names of lawyers representing suspected CTGs.
A photo of a supposed “subordinate” has also made rounds on social media, allegedly taking back the letter because PNP Calbayog “made a mistake”.
So, siya daw ang “subordinate” na pinapunta to get back the letter the PNP sent to OCC Calbayog. Kasi nga daw nagkamali sila.
Naka tsinelas. Kawawa naman kung sino man itong pinapunta.
As for the chief intel, your title is an oxymoron. pic.twitter.com/j6NgXAWCvY
— Miss Maggie (@MiaMagdalena) March 12, 2021
Top officials from the PNP have yet to issue a public statement as of writing, though netizens still worry that this might also be a trickle-down effect of President Rodrigo Duterte’s shoot-to-kill order versus armed communist rebels.