Lawyers, judges are being killed, too

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The Dec. 1, 2012, editorial on the Maguindanao massacre (“Crime Philippines?”) hit the proverbial nail on the head when it stressed an evident truth: Not only journalists but also ordinary citizens have been victimized by various forms of criminality in what appears to be a breakdown of law and order across the country.

The breakdown is so extensive that even lawyers and judges are being killed with impunity as frequently as during the Arroyo administration.

On June 22, 2010, shortly before President Aquino assumed office, lawyer Ernesto Salunat, a human rights lawyer in Nueva Vizcaya, was murdered by motorcycle-riding men.

The list has been getting longer under the Aquino administration since then: Aug. 4, 2010, prosecutor Macadatar Marsangca, Iligan City; Oct. 4, 2010, Judge Reynaldo Lacasandile, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur;

Jan. 19, 2011, Judge Fredelito Pingao, Currimao, Ilocos Norte;  Aug. 5, 2011, lawyer Archer Baldwin Martinez, Dumaguete City;

Aug. 3,  2012, lawyer Manolo Zerna, Tanjay City, Negros Oriental; Aug. 18, 2012, lawyer Xerxes Balios Camacho, former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Northern Samar chapter; Sept. 20, 2012, lawyer Nicomedes Romagos, in Cataingan, Masbate; Oct. 29, 2012, lawyer Lazaro  Gayo in Agoo, La Union; Nov. 14, 2012, lawyer Sulpicio Landicho, Tanauan City, Batangas.

This pattern of killings appears to be after the proposed formula of Dick, the butcher in William Shakespear’s “Henry VI,” for breaking peace and order in society: “The first we do, let us kill all the lawyers.”

According to IBP president Roan Libarios, in the last 10 years, at least 200 lawyers and judges have been shot in cold blood (Inquirer, 6/28/12). Most of these murders remain unsolved, with police authorities using the perennial line “lack of evidence and witnesses” to justify their failure, thereby generating a feeling of helplessness among the general public. If lawyers and judges could be killed in broad daylight with impunity, how much more ordinary citizens?

This also shows the Aquino administration’s appalling failure, nay, ineptness, in complying with international conventions. The UN  Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the Eighth UN Congress on the Prevention of Crimes and Treatment of Offenders in September 1990, requires governments to ensure that lawyers are able to perform all their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference. It likewise requires authorities to provide adequate safeguards when the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions

We join the call for the Aquino administration to also address the rampant killing of lawyers and judges. Lawyers and judges are an indispensable part of our judicial system; unless the killing of law professionals is stopped, it will not be long before our judicial system breaks down.

—REMIGIO D. SALADERO JR.

Pro-Labor Legal

Assistance Center,

33-B E. Rodriguez Sr. Ave.,

Quezon City,

Inquirer Viber

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