Asia West Pacific

Lawfare: A Gathering of the Brave

By: Alma “Kins” Aparece

I wish to live in a just and peaceful society a plea from a child living in a community where Extra Judicial Killings take place Photo_ Kins Aparece

On February 21, 2020, I attended an International Forum on “Lawfare: Weaponizing the Law Against Democratic Dissent” at the Henry Sy Hall, De La Salle Taft in Manila, Philippines. Legal experts, civil society organizations, and sectoral representatives came together to talk about “lawfare,” the misuse of law and legal systems to suppress democratic dissent.

In the forum, former University of the Philippines Law Dean Pacifico Agabin reminded the audience that the law “is always double-bladed, it can be used for good and it can be used for evil.” Former Chief Justice Sereno also challenged the country to reason together by upholding the primacy of reason and a firm belief in God. She underlined that to be right is to be just. As a people, we should not take part in repressing the people’s goodness, she emphasized.

LAWFARE. Lawyers, students, civil society groups, and supporters gather in a forum tackling the implications of the misuse of lawfare and how to stand up against weaponizing the law to harass, persecute and eliminate political adversaries. Photo courtesy of International Lawfare Forum

This is one of the biggest civil society fora represented by almost all the spectra of society to stand up against the weaponization of the law in the past three years. They participated in a forum tagged as a gathering of the brave. Even the threat of the corona virus did not deter participants from coming. Groups from different political orientations bravely set aside differences to make this happen amidst the looming fear of the repression of reprisal.

Participants from Cambodia, Malaysia, and the European Union personally attended the gathering. Leading democratic dissenters from all over the world sent their messages of solidarity. Many of them underlined that lawfare is also happening in other countries. Prof Richard Falk from Princeton University discussed how laws should protect citizens versus how they can be abused by the State.

The invitation letter projected 500 participants, but the actual participants reached 1200, the maximum capacity of the hall. The proceedings of the forum can be viewed here.

I was honored and surprised to be recommended to join this program. It was a lawyer friend who practices law in Manila and Bohol who encouraged me to join. Since it was closely connected to another workshop that I attended on the weaponization of the law, I did not hesitate to attend. It is in these types of fora that I get to reflect with many others on what is going on and what actions we as a people can take to create peace in our society.