Amid lawyer killings, Leonen hopes for swift passage of court docket marshals invoice

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Amid the spate of legal murders across the country, Marvic Leonen, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (SC) hopes Congress will soon pass a bill to create an independent security force for the judiciary.

According to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, more than 50 lawyers have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016.

“We hope that sooner or later Congress will pass the law that I believe we supported, creating judicial marshals to expand our ability to internally protect the judges we have on the ground,” said Leonen at a press conference of the Association of Foreign Correspondents of the Philippines (FOCAP) on Friday.

There is at least one pending bill in the Senate and at least three in the House of Representatives that seeks to create an office of Justice Marshals to protect judges, judges, court officials and staff, as well as judicial buildings.

In 2019, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said he envisioned a security system for judges modeled after the United States’ Marshal Services.

The Filipino Judges Association supported Peralta’s proposal, and the Integrated Bar Association of the Philippines said it was working with the military and police to initiate a lawyer security program.

Leonen said Friday that court judges face threats alone, unlike SC judges, who belong to a group of 15 members.

“They face all of these challenges, obstacles and threats from their loneliness. We have done our best to give them as much personal security as possible and we hope this Justice Marshals bill will be passed,” he said.

“But I think we are looking at an early approval if many of the statements made by our Senators and Members of the House are to be taken into account,” he added.

The judiciary said that he and his colleagues had also received threats. “But it is an occupational risk and I think I hope this strengthens our character more than ever to do the right thing,” he said.

He said the oversight committee was “always concerned and concerned” about the killings of lawyers, prosecutors and judges. He said murders “reduce the space for rational thought.”

“While these types of malicious efforts naturally encourage many of us to find better solutions to address them, we are always alarmed,” he said.

Few cases of lawyers killed have reached the courts, and Leonen said the court was concerned that many of the victims’ family members “failed to find a way to preserve, hold and then bring evidence to court.”

“And we hope that our entire legal system, which includes the police, the prosecution and even the judges and the judiciary, can deal with all of these crimes,” he said.

Justice sector actors held at least four meetings this month to discuss the safety of lawyers in the killings.

In early January, attorney Winston Intong was shot while buying vegetables near his home in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

In December, lawyer Maria Concepcion Landero-Ole was killed in Looc, Danao City. The previous month, lawyers Eric Jay Magcamit from Palawan and Joey Luis Wee from Cebu were killed within a few days of each other in broad daylight.

The judiciary of the retired Normandy Pizarro Court of Appeal was found dead and mutilated in Tarlac in December. – KBK, GMA News