TOP officials of the PNP and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Tuesday renewed their collaboration to address the killing of judges, prosecutors and lawyers and other concerns related to the legal profession.
During a meeting, PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar assured IBP President Domingo Egon Cayosa that the PNP will provide “timely assistance” to lawyers, prosecutors, and judges in distress of danger.
Eleazar said these personalities will be given “appropriate security and protection” in cases of threat or hazard in the performance of their duties and functions. Eleazar added the PNP will help enhance the knowledge of lawyers in security, personal defense, firearms proficiency and discipline and allow them access to PNP facilities for training.
He also reiterated the PNP’s commitment to expedite investigation and give preferential attention to incidents or cases of violence against lawyers, prosecutors, and magistrates “to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable and that justice is swiftly served.”
In a joint statement, the PNP and IBP said they will collaborate within the parameters of the Lawyer Security and Justice Memorandum of Agreement they signed in March last year.
“Lawyer-killings shall be investigated promptly and thoroughly with the suspects subsequently identified, prosecuted, and penalized,” the PNP and IBP said in the statement.
The two agencies noted that “closer coordination” between the PNP and IBP resulted in the “faster resolution” of the recently killings of lawyers Eric Jay Magcamit in Palawan and Atty. Joey Luis Wee in Cebu City.
The PNP, in the statement, gave the assurance that the PNP leadership “does not sanction or tolerate the use of unnecessary/unreasonable force; illegal/questionable methods, or abuse of authority in pursuing its mandate to enforce the law and maintain peace and order.
“It shall hold accountable and discipline any police officer or employee who acts in violation of the Constitution, law, or regulations,” the statement read.
The UP-College of Law has appealed to the Supreme Court for an urgent and moto proprio (on its own) action to stop the attacks on lawyers in the country.
The letter-request, signed by 157 faculty members led by Dean Edgardo Carlo Vistan and 736 other law school professors and lawyers, said they are “deeply troubled and concerned by reports that the Philippine National Police has requested trial courts to furnish a list of lawyers representing members of “communist terrorist groups.”
“Inquiries with other lawyers and court officials across the country by curious and concerned lawyers confirmed that similar letters were received by them. That the top leadership has subsequently denied any such policy does not help as the damage has been done,” the letter, addressed to Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and the other justices, said.
“Mr. Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, as the leaders of the legal profession in the Philippines, we ask that the court intervene moto proprio and urgently. Protect the officers of the Court. Ensure the independence of the judiciary. Uphold the role of lawyers in the administration of justice and the defense of the rule of law,” they said.
In an accompanying letter, Vistan ask the SC to convene a special committee to investigate the letter sent by Lt. Fernando Calabria Jr., the former police intelligence chief of Calbayog City, to the local court asking for a list of lawyers representing members of the communist movement and similar attempts to red-tag and profile lawyers, as well as to verify the number of lawyers who have been killed.
The Free Legal Assistance Group had said 61 lawyers had been killed since 2016, when President Duterte assumed office, more than the numbers combined since 1972 when the country was under Martial Law. – With Ashzel Hachero