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Leonen: Killings of lawyers 'reduce space for rational deliberation'

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Leonen: Killings of lawyers 'reduce space for rational deliberation'
Lawyers submit a letter to the Supreme Court on December 22, 2020 urging action on the killings of lawyers.
National Union of Peoples' Lawyers

MANILA, Philippines — Killings of lawyers, journalists and advocates shrink spaces for rational discussions and for seeking solutions to disputes, Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said Friday.

In a media forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Leonen said killings of people in the legal profession are always worrying and alarming for justices.

“Many of us are always bothered when somebody’s life is taken needlessly, regardless of the circumstances,” he added.

More than 50 lawyers have been killed since the start of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, but less than ten of the cases had reached courts as of early December. The rest remain unresolved murders.

The justice said: “I am very concerned with killings of lawyers, of advocates, of journalists simply because it reduces the space for rational deliberation.”

Leonen continued: “Killing somebody is not a debate, killing somebody is not a retort, it is not an argument, and furthermore it reduces the alternative ways by which we can find solutions or define the problem because we create fear on the part of another.”

What the government is doing on lawyer killings

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta ordered Court Administrator Midas Marquez earlier this month to set up meetings with different stakeholders and government agencies to address security concerns of lawyers.

The Department of Justice is also creating an inventory on related cases.

Leonen said they are hoping for the passage of the bill for the creation of judicial marshals that would create a marshal service for judges and other court officials.

At the Senate, the bill creating the Office of the Judiciary Marshals is pending second ready as of January 20, 2021.

He explained that compared to justices of the SC, which is a collegial body, one needs to threaten at least eight of them to win a case, but judges are alone in deciding cases.

“They face all these challenges and obstacles and threats by their lonesome and we have tried our best to be able to provide them with as much personal security as possible,” Leonen said.

The Senate on Thursday held a legislative inquiry into spate of unlawful killings, including of members of the legal profession.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Domingo Egon Cayosa said at the continuous killings may erode the public’s trust in the system and criminals may be emboldened to take the law into their own hands.

MARVIC LEONEN

SUPREME COURT

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