Concrete steps to protect lawyers

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - January 19, 2021 - 12:00am

Simply named the Lawyer’s Protection Program (LPP), it can be described as a concrete program for lawyers’ protection. Lawyer and Law professor Amando Virgil Ligutan initiated the proposal in consultation with IBP Cebu Chapter President Ria Lidia Espina and IBP Cebu City Chapter President Regal Oliva.

There was a sense of gloom and urgency when Ligutan together with Espina and Oliva met with PNP officials last December for an initial discussion. Already that month, a female lawyer was killed in broad daylight as she sat on her vehicle on a highway in Danao City. In November, lawyer Joey Luis Wee was murdered near the stairs of his office in Cebu City.

The proposed LPP quickly gained ground with many lawyers in Cebu. Cebu Lady Lawyers Association (CELLA) past president Cecilia B. Jugao-Adlawan, for example, called it a welcome, necessary, and urgent move, recalling how back in 2006 they in CELLA organized a seminar aimed at equipping female lawyers with basic self-defense skills. She has since given her input on fine-tuning the details and practicability of LPP.

The program has three main stages: Threat Assessment, Relocation, and Close-in Security. The plan is to provide a rigid program for lawyers who are threatened in the line of duty. Once a threat is received, an immediate threat assessment will be conducted by the police or the National Bureau of Investigation. If the threat is assessed to be grave and imminent, the lawyer will immediately be relocated to a safe place.

“The whole idea is to disrupt the routine that the lawyers follow, which could deter any imminent attack on them; and to give lawyers a fighting chance for survival,” Ligutan said, “also, the program will train our lawyers on situational awareness on the road and the tried and tested threat detection and avoidance methods.”

What’s so ‘special’ about lawyers that they need this kind of protection?

Since 2016, around 55 members of the legal profession have been killed, including recently a lawyer in Bukidnon. The motives of the killings vary, but the effect on the legal profession across the board is chilling.

Few people realize that the relationship between law and violence is actually a paradox. You may say that law is the opposite of violence because through the rule of law we settle conflicts peacefully. On the other hand, a form of violence is embedded in the law itself because the law involves in most instances legal compulsion; its stark difference from unlawful aggression being that the law employs the compulsory and coercive authority of the state to enforce the law. This is what makes a lawyer's job inherently dangerous.

In my 10 years as a lawyer, I have seen ordinary people win their cases against their powerful opponents simply because the law was on their side and the only job of their lawyer was to see to it that the court sees the connection between such fact and the law. In instances like these, I am truly awed by the majesty of the law and its coercive powers.

But what if your opponent suddenly decides not to play by the rules, knowing that he could actually run circles around the rule of law already weakened by impunity and indifference?

The answer to this question is where the potency of the proposed LPP lies. For me, the LPP addresses impunity by the level of its concreteness. It tells lawyers threatened in their jobs: We have your back, you are not alone. There are concrete steps you can take together with the IBP, PNP, and NBI.

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