Manila Hosts 1st Int’l Confab VS. ‘Lawfare’ On February 21


Legal experts, parliamentarians, leaders and representatives of civil society organizations, academe, and sectoral groups will come together in Manila on Feb. 21 for an international forum designed to combat the pandemic of lawfare used by oppressive regimes to silence democratic discourse.

Organized by De La Salle University, Alternative Law Groups, Human Rights and People’s Empowerment Center, and Committee for the Freedom of Leila de Lima, in partnership with online news website Rappler, the event entitled “International Forum on Lawfare: Weaponizing the Law vs Democratic Dissent” will be held at the Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium, De La Salle University, Manila.

The one-day forum aims to discuss the different facets of lawfare, a portmanteau of the words “law” and “warfare” to signify a form of war consisting of the malicious use of the legal and judicial system to silence a perceived enemy of the State.

Other aspects of lawfare forum that will be discussed include the so-called “red-tagging” of CSO leaders and human rights activists, and the persecution of opposition political leaders, media entities and personalities. The economic and social costs of lawfare against civil, political and cultural rights will also be tackled during the forum.

The forum is divided into six breakout sessions, such as: (1) Lawyering & Lawfare: (2) Media & Lawfare; (3) Political Opposition & Lawfare; (4) Civil and Political Rights & Lawfare; (5) Economic, Social and Cultural Rights & Lawfare, with sub-sessions on (a) “Women, Youth, and LGBT” and (b) “Labor, Urban Poor and Agriculture”; and (6) Religion & Lawfare.

The whole-day event will also address the dearth of literature and academic and political discourses as well as the absence of high-level public fora dedicated to examine the roots, the different aspects, and various ramifications of lawfare.

Examples of lawfare include the illegal arrest and unjust detention of Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima, who will mark her third year of unjust detention on Feb. 24. She decried her drug charges as a political persecution to silence her opposition to the government’s all-out war on drugs that killed thousands of suspected drug offenders.

Other victims of lawfare also include former Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who was ousted from office through a Quo Warranto petition filed by the government and former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV who has been slapped with sedition and rebellion charges. They are among the resource speakers in the event.

Apart from the political opposition, some members of the Philippine clergy have also been subjected to persecution and harassment from the government. Last year, priests and bishops, including Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, Pangasinan Bishop Socrates Villegas, Frs. Flaviano Villanueva, and Albert Alejo were charged with sedition in their alleged participation in the so-called “Bikoy expose”.

Since lawfare is not only unique to the Philippines but is also a global phenomenon, foreign experts and personalities are also expected to grace the event, including United Nations Special Rapporteurs and other foreign political leaders.

This international forum also intends to provide the venue to enlighten the local and global public about the pandemic of lawfare happening here and around the world and solidify multi-sectoral approaches and efforts in combating it.

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