‘Are judges themselves suffering from injustice?’

Supreme Court

For the past 22 years, 34 trial court judges have been killed.

Only 23 cases involving the killings have been filed in court. Eight cases have been decided – two convictions and six acquittals.

This means that since 1999, only two cases of judge killings have been successfully resolved while six cases have been rendered futile.

Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez (2)

The Supreme Court (SC), through Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez, asked:

“Is this not a case of our judges themselves suffering from injustice?”

The query was posed as the SC urged the Senate to pass a bill, SBN 1947, for the enactment of the “Judiciary Marshals Act” that would create the Office of the Judiciary Marshals (OJM) under the SC “for the security, safety, and protection of the members, officials, personnel, and property of the Judiciary, including the integrity of the courts and their proceedings.”

Published reports stated that the version of the House of Representatives on the creation of judiciary marshals has been passed and is now with the Senate. SBN 1947 is now in the period of amendments.

In a position paper which was sought by Undersecretary Antonio A. Gallardo, presidential legislative liaison for the Senate, and submitted by Marquez, the SC said the creation of the OJM under the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) “will not only help deter these killings and attacks against the members of the Judiciary but will likewise expedite and facilitate the investigation on these cases, in coordination with the concerned law enforcement agencies.”

“This will instill confidence in our justices and judges in the administration of justice and the discharge of their duties, without constant fear for their safety and security,” Marquez said.

Also, Marquez said, the creation of OJM “will relieve the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) from prioritizing the security, safety, and protection of the judges and justices, and investigating threats and violence against them, because the same will now be primarily lodged with the Judicial Marshals.”

He pointed out that the creation of the OJM within the SC “is certainly not violative of the constitutional provision of maintaining ‘one police force, which shall be national in scope and civilian in character, to be administered and controlled by a national police commission,’ considering the limited mandate of the Office of the Judiciary Marshals under the proposed bill.”

Marquez’s letter also stated:

“The Constitution expressly vests judicial power to the courts of law. Any institution given this power needs a high degree of independence in the exercise of its functions. Thus, constitutional safeguards have been provided to ensure the independence of the courts. But these constitutional safeguards will be useless if our judges will continue to cower in fear.

“Judicial independence has been defined as ‘the freedom of the judiciary to render justice fairly, impartially, in accordance with law... without fear of reprisal, intimidation, or other influence of consideration.’

“Moreover, the prerogatives of the court which the Constitution secures against interference includes not only the powers to adjudicate causes but all things that are reasonably necessary for the administration of justice.

“Thus, in order to protect this judicial independence, justices and judges must be able to make courageous, even unpopular decisions knowing that they will not be threatened, hurt, or killed for dispensing justice.”