Senate passes bill seeking creation of judiciary marshals

Senate passes bill seeking creation of judiciary marshals

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — The Senate on Monday, November 8, 2021, passed on third and
final reading a bill which aims to ensure the safety of members of the
judiciary and their families by creating a security force under the
supervision of the Supreme Court.

With 21 affirmative votes, no negative vote and one abstention, the
Senate approved Senate Bill No. 1947, or An Act Creating the Office of
the Judiciary Marshals. Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa abstained from
voting.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Committee on Justice and Human
Rights and sponsor of the bill, said the measure aims to improve the
administration of justice in the country.

Gordon said 34 judges have already been killed since 1999, and only 10
percent of these killings have been solved.

As of July, 26, 2021, 155 lawyers, judges and court personnel have
already been killed, 63 of them killed under the administration of
President Rodrigo Duterte, he said.

SBN 1947 is a consolidated bill composed of Gordon’s SBN 1181; Senate
President Vicente’s Sotto III’s SBN 1255; SBN 1209 by Senators Panfilo
Lacson and Leila De Lima; and Dela Rosa’s SBN 1237. Other senators
also asked to be made co-authors of the bill.

The measure seeks the creation of the Judiciary Marshals which shall
be primarily responsible 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. The
creation of the Office of the Judiciary Marshal is seen to help
counter the continuing attacks on judges, lawyers, and other court
personnel.

“This is aimed to protect, defend, safeguard, watch over, provide
security and ensure the safety of justices, judges, court officials
and personnel, including their families, and halls of justice,
courthouses, and other court buildings and properties,” Gordon said.

Gordon said aside from providing security, the judiciary marshals will
be tasked to conduct threat assessments and launch investigations on
crimes and other offenses committed against judiciary employees and
court property. They may also undertake probes on allegations of
irregularities, including graft and corruption, committed by members
of the legal profession.

“This shall include coordinating with other law enforcement agencies
to maximize collection and sharing of intelligence information for
purposes of identifying threats,” the measure stated.

The Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, or the Court Administrator may
also instruct the judicial marshals to perform other related functions

“This will send a strong message that you cannot just kill a judge. We
must work together to ensure that our judicial system operates in a
safe environment. Judges, witnesses, court personnel, and law
enforcement must not have to face threats of violence when carrying
out their duties. These protections are crucial to the preservation of
the independence of our Judiciary so that it can continue to serve as
a bulwark protecting individual rights and liberty,” Gordon stressed.

The proposed office would be headed by a Chief Marshal, who shall be
appointed by the high court and assisted by three deputy marshals to
be assigned in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Initial funding of ₱50 million would be needed for the enactment of
the measure, the bill stated. This would cover, among others, the
salaries and other expenses of personnel, as well as the purchase of
necessary supplies and equipment.

Dela Rosa, during the period of the amendment, raised concerns over the
granting of investigative powers to the proposed Office of the
Judiciary Marshal. He said such a move might result in encroachment of
power between the executive and judicial branches of the government. (ai/mtvn)

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