CHR backs marshal unit to protect judges
(The Freeman) - November 21, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights said Wednesday that it supports a proposed measure to create a marshal unit for members of the judiciary.

Amid an “alarming spike in attacks and killings” of members of the Philippine Bar, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia called for the immediate passage of Senate Bill No. 1181, which aims to create the “Philippine Marshal Service.”

The unit will “protect the lives of the members of the judiciary and will assist in the administration of justice,” said bill author, Sen. Richard Gordon.

Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel also filed House Bill 4503 seeking the creation of the armed marshals for the SC. Both measures were filed in response to Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta’s call for the establishment of a unit that will protect the judiciary.

De Guia, who is a lawyer herself, stressed that “judges and members of the legal profession handling high-profile cases are more vulnerable to retaliation and are prone to intimidation by powerful individuals and organizations.”

She stressed that an independent and safe environment is crucial for Philippine courts so they could “genuinely pursue justice for victims of human rights violations.”

The CHR spokesperson also said: “Perpetuating violence against our judges further undermines our justice system and reinforces impunity.”

Last November 5, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur Judge Mario Anacleto Bañez was shot to his death by unidentified men while on his way home in La Union.

Bañez is the fifth active judge killed since the start of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

His murder came six months after Zamboanga del Norte Judge Reymar Lacaya was gunned down in a justice hall in Liloy town.

There have been more than 30 deaths of members of the Philippine Bar—lawyers, prosecutors and judges—that have been killed since July 2016.

After Bañez's killing, Peralta said his call for a security team for judges, justices and court personnel patterned after the United States Marshal Service has gained support.

“People have been asking, why don’t you have marshals. That is one point in my agenda. They are supporting the creation of a marshal (office),” Peralta said.

De Guia urged the government to “take all necessary steps and assume responsibility in protecting the life and physical integrity of justices, judges and other court official and personnel.”

She also assured that the CHR will continue its probe into deaths in the Judiciary and expressed commitment of support to the SC as soon as the bill for Philippine Marshalls Service is signed into law. (FREEMAN)

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