Human-Rights Lawyer Target of State Surveillance

Jul. 05, 2006

By Cheryll D. Fiel

Atty. Musni at a recent rally in Manila. (photo courtesy of Arkibong Bayan)DAVAO CITY — A human-rights lawyer in Cagayan de Oro has allegedly been the subject of surveillance by men believed to be agents of the Philippine military, raising fears about her safety.

Two unidentified men were seen casing the office of Beverly Selim-Musni, one of the more prominent human-rights lawyer in Mindanao who is also the chairperson of the group Karapatan in Cagayan de Oro City, since June 27, according to the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace), a nongovernment peace advocacy group where Musni is also one of the convenors.

Vendors near Musni’s office in Divisoria, Cagayan de Oros downtown, warned Musni about “two armed men on board XRM motorcyle” who has been keeping watch of the building, InPeace said in a statement. InPeace did not specify how it came to know that the men were armed.

Musni herself told her friends that she had observed men tailing her taxi from her office to her house for three consecutive nights since the vendors informed her of the casing.

Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Indepiendente (IFI) in Cagayan de Oro and a colleague of Musnis in InPeace raised concern over the lawyers safety. He asked Mayor Vicente Emano to “secure the lives and liberty of progressive opposition” in the city.

Calang recalled that the office of Karapatan in Cagayan de Oro was ransacked a week after the Arroyo administration issued Proclamation 1017.

The bishop also noted that Musnis surveillance followed the death threats against lawyer Concepcion Brizuela in Kidapawan City whom he described as an outspoken defender of human rights in North Cotabato.

Calang recalled that just two weeks ago, an international fact-finding mission led by the Laywers for Lawyers Foundation, Lawyers Without Borders, and the Amsterdam Bar Association has found “a pattern in the killings of lawyers and judges” in the Philippines who are representing victims of human rights abuses and dissenting government policies.

“The surveillance, at the very least, is an attempt to intimidate her and stop her from her human rights and anti-Arroyo advocacies, or at worst, is part of sinister plans to silence her in the same manner that lawyers Felidito Dacut, Juvy Magsino, and Norman Bocar were killed by death squads under the Arroyo government,” Bishop Calang said in a statement.

The Musni case, he said, also illustrates a clear pattern of intimidating members of the legal profession to prevent them from carrying out their oath of defending victims of injustice, inequality and abuse. The desired effect of government is clearly to deny the people of the services of peoples lawyers and eventually suppress their right to seek redress for grievances through due process and human rights guarantees under the law. (Cheryll D. Fiel/

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