Senate OKs bill seeking creation of judiciary marshals
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to create a security force under the supervision of the Supreme Court in a bid to ensure the safety of members of the judiciary and their families.
With 21 affirmative votes, no negative vote and one abstention, senators passed Senate Bill No. 1947 or the proposed Act Creating the Office of the Judiciary Marshals.
Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa abstained from voting.
Dela Rosa, during the period of amendments, raised concerns over the granting of investigative powers to the proposed Office of the Judiciary Marshal. He said such a move might result in encroachment of power between the executive and judicial branches of the government.
The bill proposes an initial funding of P50 million to cover, among others, the salaries and other expenses of personnel, as well as the purchase of necessary supplies and equipment.
Sen. Richard Gordon, sponsor of the bill as chairman of the justice and human rights committee, said the measure aims to improve the administration of justice in the country.
Thirty-four judges have already been killed since 1999, and only 10 percent of these killings have been solved, according to Gordon.
As of July 26 this year, 157 lawyers, judges and court personnel have already been killed, 63 of them killed under the Duterte administration, he added.
If signed into law, the measure would create the Judiciary Marshals, which is “primarily responsible” for 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 Marshal is seen to help counter the continuing attacks on judges, lawyers, and other court personnel.
“This is aimed to protect, defend, safeguard, watch over, provide security and ensure the safety of justices, judges, court officials and personnel, including their families, and halls of justice, courthouses, and other court buildings and properties,” Gordon said.
Gordon added that aside from providing security, the judiciary marshals will be tasked to conduct threat assessments and launch investigations on crimes and other offenses committed against judiciary employees and court property.
They may also undertake probes on allegations of irregularities, including graft and corruption, committed by members of the legal profession, the senator noted.
“This shall include coordinating with other law enforcement agencies to maximize collection and sharing of intelligence information for purposes of identifying threats,” the bill read.
The Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, or the Court Administrator may also instruct the judicial marshals to perform other related functions.
“This will send a strong message that you cannot just kill a judge. We must work together to ensure that our judicial system operates in a safe environment. Judges, witnesses, court personnel, and law enforcement must not have to face threats of violence when carrying out their duties,” Gordon went on.
“These protections are crucial to the preservation of the independence of our Judiciary so that it can continue to serve as a bulwark protecting individual rights and liberty,” he added.
The proposed office would be headed by a Chief Marshal, who shall be appointed by the high court and assisted by three deputy marshals to be assigned in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
The measure is a consolidated bill composed of separate bills filed by Gordon, Senate President Vicente’s Sotto III and Senators Panfilo Lacson and Leila De Lima and Dela Rosa.
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