De Lima pushes for protection of lawyers, justice officials

Published March 22, 2018, 5:27 PM

by AJ Siytangco


By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday pushed for a measure seeking to protect those who are in the legal profession and justice sector officials by increasing penalty against crimes committed against them.

De Lima earlier filed Senate Bill No. 1721 amending Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code, adding as an aggravating circumstance the crime committed against lawyers and justice sector officials.

Senator Leila de Lima (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Leila de Lima

De Lima said it is imperative to provide court officials and lawyers some semblance of protection as they are the ones tasked to ensure that justice is done.

“In the process, they place themselves in harm’s way against people who mean to subvert justice,” de Lima said.

De Lima cited the recent spate of killings against some lawyers especially those who were handling high-profile cases.

Among them, she said, was Atty. Jonah John Ungab who was shot to death by unidentified gunmen in an ambush in Cebu City last Feb. 19.

Ungab is the legal counsel of confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa. He was killed after attending a court hearing at the Cebu City Hall of Justice related to Espinosa’s case.

His other lawyer, Atty. Rogelio Bato, who was also the lawyer of slain Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa was also killed in August 2016.

“The spate of killings against members of the legal profession should call our government to action to send a clear message against offenders who specifically target lawyers and court officials,” she explained.

As such, De Lima proposed under Section 1, Article 14 of the RPC that “the crime committed against the person or property of lawyers and justice sector officials, in fulfillment of their duty or in their lawful exercise of a right or office” should be considered as aggravating circumstances.

A lawyer by profession, the detained senator said that attacks against lawyers and justice sector officials are obvious attacks against the legal profession and the judicial system.

“Attacks against legal professionals, as in the case of human defenders, journalists and activists, continue to be common practice because suspects are rarely caught,” she said.

Likewise, she noted that various human rights groups and lawyer organizations have raised alarm against harassment and murder against their colleagues.

“There is a clear need to amend existing law to establish a clear government policy to protect our justice system and the persons tasked to administer justice,” she stressed.