SC condemns violence against judges, lawyers; vows to provide security for those under threat

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 23) — The Supreme Court has condemned acts of violence committed against judges and lawyers, and outlined a plan of action to end the threats and killings against them.

"The Judiciary is one of the three pillars of our republican democracy, which itself hangs on a careful balance between and among governmental powers. To threaten our judges and our lawyers is no less an assault on the judiciary. To assault the judiciary is to shake the very bedrock on which the rule of law stands," Supreme Court spokesperson Brian Hosaka said on Tuesday.

"The Court condemns in the strongest sense every instance where a lawyer is threatened or killed, and where a judge is threatened and unfairly labeled," he added.

The statement from the Supreme Court en banc read by Hosaka also said among the measures to be taken was to provide security for judges or justices who have been threatened.

"We have coordinated with all concerned to provide security and counseling to the judges concerned. The court is ready to provide or coordinate security arrangements for any judge or justice that is similarly threatened," he said.

Hosaka added the office of Court Administrator has been ordered to conduct a survey among trial courts and Sharia judges about the extent of threats they have received in the last 10 years.

Also to be investigated is the recent incident where a judge was linked to groups considered by law enforcers as communists and rebels, after clearing a journalist and a union member of charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. 

The Supreme Court is also asking lower courts and law enforcement offices to give them information on every threat or killing of a lawyer or judge in the last 10 years.

The High Court earlier said it would issue rules on the use of body camera in the serving of warrants. This matter was included in the measures read by Hosaka on Tuesday.

Senator Manny Pacquiao expressed his support for the Supreme Court en banc's move to protect judges and lawyers.

"I am against any policy that tramples on the basic principle of human rights which is the right to counsel. Our lawyers must be free and even duty-bound to represent those accused of violating the law. Lawyers should not be suspected, discriminated against, faulted, red-tagged, or attacked in performing their sworn duties," Pacquiao said in a statement.

Groups Bayan Muna and Karaptan also said they welcome the Supreme Court's statement.

"We welcome the SC's taking cognizance of the condemnable, yet, still continuing attacks against lawyers, judges and even ordinary Filipinos under the present atmosphere of wanton disregard of the rule of law and justice," House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.

Karapatan said the Supreme Court's "concern on and taking note of the welfare of judges and lawyers, including those who experienced threats among the lawyers in the petitions questioning the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and the red-tagging of Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio, is an important declaration."

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines also supported the Supreme Court's stance as a number of their suggestions and recommendations were acted upon in the high court's condemnation of violent acts against judges and lawyers.

"Lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and all workers in the justice sector can and should do so much to deliver justice a lot faster. Only when the evil-doers are swiftly and surely held accountable that the criminals fear the law and respect the rights of others," the IBP said in a statement.

CNN Philippines correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.