THE Supreme Court en banc yesterday condemned in the “strongest sense” the threats and killings of lawyers and judges in the country as it unveiled several response actions, including readiness to provide the necessary security arrangements for any judge or justice threatened.
The statement, a rare move by the en banc, came amid calls from lawyers groups, such as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Free Legal Assistant Group and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and other sectors such as the University of the Philippine College of Law, for the tribunal to take concrete measures amid the harassment, killings and red-tagging of lawyers.
FLAG earlier released data showing that 61 lawyers have been killed since 2016, more than the previous administrations, including when the country was placed under martial law in 1972.
“The Court condemns in the strongest sense, every instance where a lawyer is threatened or killed and where a judge is threatened and unfairly labeled,” the en banc statement read by SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said.
“To threaten our judges and lawyers is no less than an assault on the judiciary, to assault the judiciary is to shake the bedrock on which the rule of law stands. This cannot be allowed in a civilized society like ours,” the SC added.
The SC said despite the threats and killings, the judiciary “will continue to unflinchingly comply with our constitutional duty to act decisively when it is clear that injustices are done.”
To address the problem, the SC asked lower courts and various law enforcement agencies to furnish the court with relevant information shedding light on the number and context of each and every threat and killing of a lawyer or judge within the past 10 years and has resolved to work on, deliberate and promulgate rules on the use by law enforcers of body cameras for the service of search and arrest warrants.
Reacting to the SC statement, NUPL President Edre Olalia says “it is comforting and reassuring” now that the SC has spoken.
Olalia said the NUPL will cooperate with the SC’s directives, adding the group will continue to call for timelier and effective remedies against “grave abuse of power and attacks on liberties.”
Bayan Muna Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said they are prepared to submit reports to the SC to show the “systematic and coordinated nature” of the attacks that he claimed came from security forces.