he brutal massacre in Maguindanao on November 23 that has left more than 50 dead, many of them women, follows a pattern of extra-judicial killings that has been plaguing the Philippines. Death squads have been murdering progressive activists with impunity. The death count has reached more than 1000 since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s presidency began. Twenty-two lawyers and 15 judges had been killed before this massacre and among the dead in Maguindana are two women lawyers from the National Union of People’s Lawyers, Connie Brizuela and Cynthia Joquindo.
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) demands real justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre and other extra-judicial killings in the Philippines. The NLG calls on the Arroyo government to cease words without action and tolerance of the status quo that has bred this culture of impunity in the Philippines. The culture of impunity allows for private armies and feudal clan political dynasties in a country that claims democracy. The NLG calls for the dismantling of these armies, starting with the instant disarmament of the Ampatuan’s army and an end to feudal clan political dynasties. The killing of lawyers, journalists, political activists and other innocent victims must be stopped and the perpetrators brought to justice. Further, the NLG calls on the U.S. government to investigate whether there is a connection between the U.S. military presence in Mindanao and escalating violence in that region.
The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. It is a member of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and, through its International Committee, provides support, solidarity and legal expertise to human rights struggles around the world. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in nearly every state.