SC sending Congress draft bill on marshals
A bill drafted by the Supreme Court for a Philippine Marshal Service will be sent to Congress on Monday, according to Court Administrator Midas Marquez.
The draft bill goes beyond the primary objective of providing protection to judges—amid the spate of killings targeting members of the judiciary—as it also proposes broad powers for the marshals other than their main task of providing security.
The marshals will be under the Supreme Court through the Office of the Court Administrator, according to the high court’s proposal.
They are authorized to “undertake investigations [of] crimes and other offenses committed, including potential security threats against justices, judges, court officials and personnel.”
The marshals will also have the authority to “make arrests, searches and seizures” in the course of their investigation.
But these “functions of the Philippine Marshal Service [will be] in accordance with the Constitution, existing laws, jurisprudence,” the proposal read in part.
Like the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation, the marshals will also have the authority to directly file criminal complaints before the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice or the local prosecutor’s office.
The marshals are also tasked to investigate “allegations of irregularities, including graft and corruption, committed by justices, judges, court officials and personnel.”
The Supreme Court also wants the marshals to be given access to public records and to phone records of individuals under investigation, with the assurance to telco companies that the data will be treated “with utmost confidentiality and only for purposes of the case under investigation.”
The proposal said the Philippine Marshal Service will receive an initial funding of P50 million and annual allocation under the national budget in succeeding years.
Besides the Supreme Court-drafted bill, Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino Biazon has filed a bill to create the Office of Judiciary Marshals.
According to Biazon’s House Bill No. 3409, the marshals will be mainly responsible for the protection and security of the members of the judiciary.
“There is a need to provide our magistrates and judges a secure environment where they will be able to perform this almost inhuman act of rendering fair and just decisions amid all threats to their lives and those of the members of their families,” Biazon said in his bill.
His version also authorizes the marshals to make arrests and investigate crimes, but limits their authority to cover only crimes “committed within court premises and its properties.”
Asked to comment on Biazon’s bill, Marquez said: “Perhaps all the different versions will be consolidated during the hearings, after which we can come out with the best version.”
He said the high court will determine later how many marshals would be needed and how they would be assigned throughout the country.
Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, a former prosecutor and trial judge, included on his agenda the creation of a marshal service patterned after the United States Marshal Service.
Law enforcement arm
In a news conference on Nov. 9, following his appointment on Oct. 23, Peralta said he envisioned that marshals would not be limited to security concerns, but also to act as the judiciary’s law enforcement arm for court-related offenses.
“We give powers to all these marshals, there [will be] no need to go to the policemen. They themselves [can make arrests]. That is what we are envisioning and we hope that Congress would help us on this para naman matakot ang mga tao (to scare certain people) because they are harming our judges, not only fiscals and witnesses but even the judges,” Peralta said.
Among the latest fatalities so far in the wave of attacks on judges was Judge Mario Anacleto Bañez of the regional trial court of Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, who was shot dead on Nov. 5 by men riding a motorcycle while he was driving home to La Union.
Bañez was the 31st judge killed since 1999, according to the Office of the Court Administrator.
The Philippine Judges Association (PJA) expressed its support for the Supreme Court-drafted bill.
“The PJA supports it 100 percent, including all [the] functions” of the marshals, said PJA president and Marikina Regional Trial Court Judge Felix Reyes, who discussed the proposal with Marquez last Friday.
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