The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Wednesday, March 24, hailed the actions taken by the Supreme Court (SC) in response to the continued attacks against the country’s lawyers and judges.
“As the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court stand with us, we will resolutely and proactively protect our members and do our sworn duty to seek the truth, do justice, and promote peace,” the IBP declared.
In a strongly-worded statement expressing its condemnation, the SC said last Tuesday, March 23:
“We do not and will not tolerate such acts that only perverse justice, defeat the rule of law, undermine the most basic of constitutional principles, and speculate on the worth of human lives.
“To threaten our judges and our lawyers is no less than an assault on the Judiciary. To assault the Judiciary is to shake the very bedrock on which the rule of law stands.
“This cannot be allowed in a civilized society like ours. This cannot go undenounced on the Court’s watch.
“We are aware that there are wayward elements who, in their zeal to do what they think is necessary, would simply brush aside the limitations in our law as mere obstacles.
“This should never be countenanced, for it is only in the enjoyment of our inalienable and indivisible rights that our freedoms become meaningful.
The SC then asked all trial courts and law enforcement agencies, and the public – through public interest organizations, and lawyers’ and judges’ groups – to provide information on lawyers’ threats and killings the past 10 years and to submit them to its Public Information Office (PIO).
It said it will deliberate and promulgate rules on the use of body cameras by law enforcement officers in serving search and arrest warrants, and will determine if they can cover buy-bust operations in illegal drugs cases.
The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) was tasked to coordinate with law enforcement agencies on the probe on the red-tagging of a Mandaluyong City regional trial court (RTC) judge who acquitted a journalist and a trade unionist on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
At the same time, the SC said all incidents on threats and killings of lawyers should be referred to the trial courts for proper remedies such as writs of Amparo and habeas data.
The SC acted on the letters and manifestations of various sectors on threats and killings of lawyers.
Several groups told the SC that more than 60 lawyers, including prosecutors and judges, have been killed since 2016.
“We welcome the En Banc (full court) statement of the Honorable Supreme Court on the safety and security of lawyers and judges. It is deeply appreciated. We are pleased and grateful that a number of the suggestions and recommendations of the IBP are being acted upon,” the IBP said in a statement.
“The Integrated Bar of the Philippines will continue to work with the judiciary, government agencies, other sectors, and courageous Filipino lawyers to improve the security of all those who labor to promote the rule of law,” it stressed.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) had also lauded the actions done by the SC.
“It is generally both comforting and reassuring to the legal community even as it took some precious time to happen and at great cost,” NUPL president Edre U. Olalia said.
“At this crucial juncture when the other institutions have defaulted on us, we fervently welcome these bold and unequivocal declarations, initial steps and further plans from our very own refuge,” he said.
He assured NUPL’s cooperation with the SC’s directives “even as we have been sounding out the clarion call and providing information and concrete recommendations for the longest time.”
“We shall continue to move, plead and pray that our Court continue to stand by its own magistrates, its officers of the court, and our people and that it ensures or provides more effective and timelier remedies especially against grave abuse of power and attacks on liberties,” he added.