International Association of People's Lawyers


  Dissent Special Issue - Defending Lawyers

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Interim Report On Killings in the Philippines

IAPL Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers

January 2015

endagenderedlawyersdayGiven the various reports on lawyers killed that have surfaced in the days before and just after the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, January 23, 2015, in some cases with different figures, it seems to be appropriate to publish what the Monitoring Committee believes to be a comprehensive set of figures covering the period 1 January 1999 to 31 December 2014.

The sources of our data are the following: the Philippine media, in particular the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the online news journal BULATLAT; the Report of the Fact Finding Mission of Lawyers for Lawyers, 2006;

the Alston Report on Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines; the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; National Union of People’s Lawyers; Karapatan; Philippine National Police; personal knowledge, and interviews with Philippine activists, academics, individual lawyers and others, largely in and around Metro Manila.

Philippine legal workers killed between 1 January 1999 and October 30, 2014:


83 (includes one paralegal and one disappeared, assumed dead)


23 (excludes one apparent suicide, listed by the Police)





It is a truism in criminology that crime figures are unreliable due to, inter alia, definitional problems in the categorization of events. One significant difference between our figures and those of others may be that we are including all lawyers killed whether or not they can be thought to have been killed as a result of their legal professional work. We believe this inclusive approach is appropriate for several reasons.

First, it is often difficult to know why a lawyer was killed, although generally we would assume that they were killed for some reason related to their legal work. Second, the publicity given to the assassination of a lawyer potentially can have a chilling effect on the work of others in the profession, thus we believe it is important not to ignore any such attack on a lawyer. Third, lawyer’s associations in a number of countries, such as Pakistan and India, have shown the importance of bringing pressure on governments regarding their policies toward the legal profession, and such action is strengthened by the understanding that “an injury to one is an injury to all”. Fourth, understandings of crimes, including the killing of a lawyer, can be complicated. Context and circumstances are important in categorizing criminal behaviour. Even a robbery/homicide, having nothing directly to do with the victim’s legal work, could be said to be because the perpetrator assumed the victim had made a pile of money AS a lawyer. Thus indirectly it could be said that the killing was related to legal professional work or status. This may be true, perhaps, especially in less economically developed countries where it appears lawyers are at the greatest danger of being killed.

Average number of lawyers, judges and prosecutors killed per month under President Arroyo and President Aquino

There were 78 killed under Pres. Arroyo who served 108 months, making the average per month 7.22.

There have been 36 killed in 54 months (to the end of 2014), making the average per month 6.7.

Percentages of total killings during the terms of Presidents Arroyo and Aquino

President Arroyo had twice as many months service as had President Aquino (to the end of 2014) (108 to 54), and a little more than twice the number of lawyer killings during her term (78 to 36).

The percentages of the total number of killings attributable to the tenures of the two Presidents are:

President Arroyo: 68.4%

President Aquino: 31.6%.


It appears that the Aquino government’s focus on development and ending corruption has not brought a significant reduction in deadly attacks on lawyers. Although attacks of other kinds on lawyers-- threats and other forms of intimidation; harassment; surveillance; unjustified detention; false charges and arrests; as well as other manoeuvres intended to impede the work of lawyers—are constantly reported to the NUPL, Karapatan and the media, we do not have comprehensive hard data on such matters. Nevertheless, it appears from the reports we have seen, e.g. the media releases from the NUPL and Karapatan, that such attacks have continued relentlessly under the Aquino regime.

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