By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Eight lawyer-senators, both from the minority and majority blocks, united on Wednesday in strongly condemning the alarming number of killings of and violence against lawyers and judges in the country.
In a resolution filed by eight lawyer-senators, they also urged President Rodrigo Duterte to undertake the necessary steps in ensuring the safety of the members of the legal profession.
The bipartisan resolution was filed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, together with Senators Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Pia Cayetano, Leia de Lima, Richard Gordon, Francisco “Kiko” Pangilinan, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel IV, and Francisco “Tol” Tolentino.
“Our lawyers play a crucial role in the administration of justice in the country, especially in representing the most marginalized members of the community,” the senators said in the resolution.
“The brazen acts of violence against lawyers send a chilling message to the members of the bench and the bar who, in the performance of their responsibilities to the society as administrators of justice should be able to exercise their sworn duties and represent their clients or dispense justice without threats, persecution and fear for their safety and their lives,” they stressed.
Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court condemned the alarming number of killings of lawyers and judges in the country.
Senate Resolution No. 691 cited the Department of Justice data which revealed that 54 members of the legal profession have been killed since 2016 and only five cases have reached the courts.
The Free Legal Assistance Group reported that 100 lawyers have been killed in the last 20 years, the resolution noted.
“The continuing flagrant and horrific attacks on the lawyers, prosecutors, and judges and the failure to condemn, investigate, and prosecute these acts of violence and bring the perpetrators to justice is an act of injustice in itself and erode the public’s trust and confidence in our justice system,” the lawyer-senators said.
The eight senators urged “the President to undertake the necessary steps in ensuring the safety of the members of the legal profession by laying out definitive solutions and actions to address such rampant violence and killings, including the prompt, impartial and efficient investigation and prosecution of the cases.”
They cited that Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution provides that “[t]he prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people.”
They added that under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, the government shall ensure that lawyers “are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment, or improper interference…” (AI|MTVN)