'Timely' passage of Judiciary Marshals Act hailed

Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte has described as timely President Duterte's signing last month of a law that officially created the Office of Judiciary Marshals (OJM).

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According to Villafuerte, the OJM will not only provide security to members of the country's court system, but will also help ensure the efficient and effective delivery of justice in the country.

"When our judges and justices feel safe, secure and protected, they can render their rulings on cases more efficiently, without feeling threatened or harassed," said the solon, who was the principal author of the measure in the House of Representatives.

Villafuerte said the creation of the OJM was a long-overdue step in strengthening the country's judicial system.

He said President Duterte’s signing of this bill into law was timely given the increasing number of attacks against judges in the Philippines in recent years.

According to the Philippine Judges Association (PJA), five judges have been killed since 2017. Since 1999, a total of 31 active judges have been slain.

Of the 31 judges, 90 percent were regional trials court (RTC) judges. Only 10 percent of these killings were solved, the Bicol solon noted.

The President signed Republic Act (RA) No. 11691 or the Judiciary Marshals Act last month. He will step down from Malacañang on June 30.

Villafuerte said the law is patterned after the United States Marshals Service. It provides that the officials and personnel of the OJM shall possess suitable and adequate firearms for the proper safety and protection of the justices, judges, court officials and personnel.

Under the law, the OJM shall conduct threat assessments, investigations and forensic analyses of crimes and threats committed against judiciary members and court properties.

The OJM will be headed by a Chief Marshal, to be assisted by three deputy marshals in charge of, assigned and stationed in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao, respectively.

Upon the directive of the Supreme Court (SC), the Chief Justice or the Court Administrator, the Office of the Judiciary Marshals may also issue subpoenas for the appearance of any person for investigation, apply for search warrants before any court of law, and file complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice (DOJ), or city or provincial prosecutors.

The office can also take and require sworn statements from any summoned person or administer the oath of any person in relation to cases under investigation.

It may also make arrests and conduct searches and seizures, have access overall public records under the custody of any government branch, possess suitable and adequate firearms, request assistance from law enforcement agencies, and establish a Judiciary Marshals Academy.