SC to tackle request to create panel for lawyers' protection

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
SC to tackle request to create panel for lawyers' protection
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 — The Supreme Court will tackle on Tuesday the request of the University of the Philippines College of Law faculty to create a special committee for the protection of lawyers.

In a chance interview on Friday, Peralta said he will include the law professors’ letter on the en banc agenda next week, which is also his last full court session before his retirement on March 27.

“I cannot speak for other members of the court but what I can do is place in the agenda and let that petition be raffled and let us see what would be the recommendation of the member-in-charge,” he told reporters after the groundbreaking of the New Caloocan City Judicial Building.

UP College of Law Dean Edgardo Carlo Vistan II, in an accompanying letter to the SC, asked the high court to convene a “Special Committee to Protect Lawyers” to look into circumstances of the letter and the connection, if any, behind attempts to profile and red tag lawyers.

More than 800 other lawyer also wrote to Peralta to ask the chief justice to use its power and require an official explanation from the Philippine National Police on its local office's request to Calbayog, Samar courts for a list of lawyers representing “communist terrorist groups.”

Peralta said they may seek explanation from the PNP but said that this should still follow a process. “As I said, as of now, what we know are those we read from newspapers and claims we read from other persons and let us see what will happen in next en banc session,” he added.

On red-tagging of judge

Just days after the Calbayog, Samar court confirmed receipt of the police letter — eventually disowned by PNP top brass — Mandaluyong Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio was red-tagged through a tarpaulin hung along EDSA.

Ignacio in February junked illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges against journalist Lady Ann Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esprago. The court had also flagged “substantial inconsistencies and contradictions” in the testimony and sworn statements of the informant and law enforcers involved in the operation.

Asked if the SC will also look into the red-tagging of Ignacio, Peralta replied the high court is always looking after the welfare of judges. He also said that the court respects Ignacio’s ruling on the quashal of search warrants issued by Quezon City Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert.

“If her life is threatened, the first thing that we do is protect her because she’s our employee. Whatever it is, we have to protect her,” Peralta said, adding that they have already provided “concessions” that the judge has asked, but he did not expound.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines national president Domingo Egon Cayosa earlier this week met with PNP officials on security concerns of lawyers. He told reporters in a separate interview that the police are open to wearing body cameras during the service of warrants and have agreed to prioritize cases involving lawyers.

“These may be small things but they are important in terms of sending the message because we are correcting the perception on the ground that doing this (attack on lawyers) by those ill-intentioned are just okay,” he added partly in Filipino.

Chief Justice Peralta also said that the Supreme Court is concerned, noting that lawyers are under attack and threatened. He said "there must be really something wrong," but added that concluding that "one is responsible is another thing, we have to investigate."

The Free Legal Assistance Group has tallied 61 lawyers slain in just the five years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, but Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has also distanced the Palace from the high number of killings.

He pointed out that the legal profession is "fraught with danger" and that the murders may also be due to other circumstances.




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