Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra hopes to hold a dialogue with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) within the month to discuss concerns over the safety of lawyers.
“We still have to fix a date for our meeting with the IBP officials,” Guevarra said on Saturday, Jan. 9.
“I hope this month na yun (I hope it will be set this month),” the secretary stated.
Aside from the IBP and the Department of Justice (DOJ), Guevarra also sought the participation of other government agencies in the dialogue.
“I think representatives from the PNP (Philippine National Police) and the SC (Supreme Court) should also join us,” he said.
The letter was sent following the killing of lawyer Baby Maria Concepcion Landero-Ole last Dec. 17 in Danao City, Cebu.
There are now 55 lawyers, including prosecutors and magistrates, who have been killed under the administration of President Duterte.
The IBP has sought out government officials who are lawyers, including Duterte and Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, to address the continued killings of lawyers.
“When lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and workers in the justice sector are murdered with impunity and alarming regularity, no one feels safe, our people lose trust and faith in our government justice system, and the unscrupulous are emboldened to take the law in their criminal hands.
Lawyers who are trained and sworn to be courageous sentinels of the rule of law may understandably waver and worry about their own security and safety thereby allowing more space for violence and fear to rule instead. As we recognize our responsibilities and our shortcomings, let us restore and maintain the rule of law,” read the letter of the IBP sent to government officials.
“It is in this broader perspective that we seek your attention, guidance, and action on the 54 documented lawyers killed so far since July 1, 2016, as well as the many more unsolved killings in earlier years and administrations. We appeal to our brother-lawyers in all branches of government who occupy positions of great authority and power to take concerted actions to decisively address attacks on lawyers. We seek this not only on behalf of the slain lawyers, their families, and the legal profession but more importantly, for our country that has long suffered from creeping criminality and delayed or denied justice,” the IBP stated.
The IBP told government officials that it “recognize and appreciate your commitment and efforts to improve our criminal justice system” but it lamented that “lawyers, the sentinels of the rule of law, continue to be ironically caught in the spiraling violence and flawed or slow justice.”