Justice grinds slow for 32 slain judges too
MANILA, Philippines— Often cited as a coequal branch of the government, the judiciary has again shown to be less equal than others as the Duterte administration cut funds that were meant to hire marshals who will investigate threats and attacks against court officials and personnel.
“Out of the 34 cases of judges murdered while in the service over 22 years, only two cases have been successfully resolved while six were rendered futile,” Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez wrote Malacañang’s legislative liaison office on Sept. 13.
Six cases ended in the acquittal of the suspects while 15 cases are still on trial. In 11 cases, no charges have even been filed in court, Marquez said.
“Is this not a case of our judges themselves suffering from injustice?” he asked.
The Senate has tried to help address the matter through the proposed Judiciary Marshals bill (Senate Bill No. 1947), which would empower marshals to maintain the “security, safety and protection of the members, officials, personnel and property of the judiciary, including the integrity of the courts and their proceedings.”
“The creation of the Office of the Judiciary Marshals will not only help deter these killings and attacks against members of the judiciary, but will expedite the investigation of these cases, in coordination with law enforcement agencies,” Marquez added.
The Constitution guarantees the independence of the courts “but these constitutional safeguards will be useless if our judges will continue to cower in fear,” he went on.
But the appeal has fallen on deaf executive ears and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) even cut the judiciary’s P45.31-billion budget in 2021 to P44.98 billion in the 2022 spending bill it submitted to the House of Representatives.
Marquez, who represented the judiciary at the budget hearing, said the budget cut is a violation of Section 3, Article VIII of the Constitution.
The provision states: “The Judiciary shall enjoy fiscal autonomy. Appropriations for the Judiciary may not be reduced by the legislature below the amount appropriated for the previous year and, after approval, shall be automatically and regularly released.”
The Supreme Court initially planned to seek a budget of P67.27 billion for 2022, but the DBM sliced off P22.29 billion, reducing the judiciary’s budget to P44.98 billion.
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