SC condemns lawyer killings, threats: These are ‘no less than an assault on the Judiciary’
MANILA, Philippines — In a rare move on its part, the Supreme Court has issued a statement on the killings and threats against judges and lawyers saying that such actions are “no less than an assault on the Judiciary.”
“To assault the Judiciary is to shake the very bedrock on which the rule of law stands. This cannot be allowed in a civilized society like ours. This cannot go undenounced on the Court’s watch,” the Supreme Court en banc said in a statement read by Public Information Chief and Spokesperson Atty. Brian Keith Hosaka
Over 60 lawyers were killed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. The number is higher compared to the number of lawyers and judges killed from the time of strongman Ferdinand Marcos to President Benigno Aquino, which was 49.
One lawyer has been missing since 2019 while 10 members of the legal profession have survived murderous attacks, the last of which was Atty. Angelo Karlo Guillen of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL). He was stabbed in the head with a screwdriver.
On the other hand, petitioners and counsels pushing for the nullity of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 have been red-tagged as communist supporters while some have been under surveillance.
Meanwhile, Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio, who dismissed the case against red-tagged journalist Lady Ann Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago, has been red-tagged herself.
A tarpaulin was displayed along the corner of EDSA-Shaw Boulevard thanking her for dismissing the case against Salem and Esparago.
“We are aware that there are wayward elements who, in their zeal to do what they think is necessary, would simply brush aside the limitations in our law as mere obstacles. This should never be countenanced, for it is only in the enjoyment of our inalienable and indivisible rights that our freedoms become meaningful.
“In this light, the Court condemns in the strongest sense every instance where a lawyer is threatened or killed, and where a judge is threatened and unfairly labeled. We do not and will not tolerate such acts that only perverse justice, defeat the rule of law, undermine the most basic of constitutional principles, and speculate on the worth of human lives,” the statement added.
The high court enumerated several actions to address the threats and killings:
- All lower courts, law enforcement offices as well as public interest organizations to provide vetted information about lawyers’ threats and killings in the past 10 years. They were given from this month and the entire month of April to provide the information to the high court’s Public Information Office.
- The high court will work on, deliberate, and promulgate rules on the use of body cameras for the service of search and arrest warrants. The high court will also determine if they can cover with their rules the conduct of buy-bust operations.
- The Office of the Court Administrator (OCAD) has been tasked to coordinate with law enforcement agencies regarding the investigation on the incident of red-tagging the Mandaluyong Judge. The OCAD is also tasked to conduct a survey among the trial court and Shari’ah Court judges of the extent of threats that they have been receiving in the last 10 years.
- All letters containing specific incidents shall be referred to trial courts. The parties will then order to convert the letters into proper remedies such as writs of Amparo and habeas data.
- Continuous coordination with all concerned civil society and law enforcement groups.
The Supreme Court said it has always operated “within constitutional restraints, but it is far from resigned to spectate as clear breaches of constitutional rights are carried out beyond its halls.
“We remain conscious of our role to ensure that the rule of law is resilient and effective in a just, fair, and timely manner. The Bench and the Bar, as well as the public, can rest assured that we will continue to unflinchingly comply with our constitutional duty to act decisively when it is clear that injustices are done,” it added.
“True to the just virtues we all must fight for, our resolve is unqualified. We recognize the bravery of all the judges and lawyers who show up to administer justice in the face of fear. Let there be no doubt, the Supreme Court stands with them.”
The statement read by Hosaka was signed by the high court magistrates. This is only the second time that the en banc (full court) has instructed its Public Information Office to read a statement on behalf of the justices. The first was regarding the statement about the indefinite leave of then chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
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