Stronger protection for prosecutors pushed in Senate
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Days after the fatal attack on Quezon City Deputy Prosecutor Rogelio Velasco, Senator Grace Poe filed a resolution on Friday, May 17, urging two Senate panels to look into strengthening laws to protect public prosecutors.
In her resolution directed to the Senate committees on justice and human rights, and public order and dangerous drugs, Poe said there is a need to reassess existing policies and measures to protect prosecutors who "are clearly constantly within the crosshairs of the most notorious, dangerous, and evil-minded personalities they ought to prosecute.”
The resolution cited 6 public prosecutors killed in the country “in 2017 alone": Quezon Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Reymund Luna, Mati City Prosecutor Rolando Acido, Quezon City Prosecutor Johanne Noel Mingao, Caloocan Assitant City Prosecutor, Rizal Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Maria Ronatay, and Mandaluyong City Prosecutor Pablito Gahol.
Acido, however, was killed in October 2016.
Velasco was driving through Don Antonio Heights in Quezon City with his daughters on Friday, May 11, when unidentified men in a vehicle in front of the prosecutor's shot at him multiple times. At least 20 bullet holes were found in his Toyota Innova.
Poe said in her resolution that the attack happened while a nationwide gun ban was in place for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections on May 14, “as if to add more impunity into their barbaric acts."
“The lost lives of our valiant public prosecutors should not remain as mere statistics to be swept under the rug,” the resolution said.
The filing of ths resolution comes after several protests of public prosecutors this week, calling for justice for the deaths of Velasco and other slain prosecutors within the recent months.
Extra 'layer of protection'
Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) spokesperson Boy Evangelista urged the government to create an agency tasked to protect prosecutors.
“We are calling the President to create an attached agency that will protect all prosecutors from harm. They should be given VIP police protection coming from the Police Security and Protection Group, at no cost at all," Evangelista said.
He added that prosecutors and judges must be given full coverage of insurance as the level of threats in their jobs is very high. For even more protection, he suggested that they be automatically allowed to carry firearms.
“Prosecutors should be protected so they will not make decisions based on fear,” Evangelista said. “[This is] to encourage them to make the right decisions in prosecuting high profile personalities like politicians, celebrities, and businessmen.”
He also said that the death of Velasco should serve as a "wake-up call" for prosecutors.
"You are nothing, kahit prosecutor ka, kapag gumawa ka ng resolution na hindi tama for others, kahit tama talaga (even if you are a prosecutor, if you make a resolution that isn't good for others, even if it's right)," the VACC spokesman said.
"This is also a wake-up call for them to do their jobs honestly, without corruption," he added.
Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Quezon City Chapter President Dominic Solis agreed that carrying firearms would give prosecutors an extra layer of protection, but stressed that it is the government's job to protect them.
“Although there is no one solution to this problem, I think that is a move in the right direction. The job of a public prosecutor is always at risk. There is always a risk that you would step on the toes of powerful people,” he said.
“Of course there remains the obligation of the government to make sure that all prosecutors, judges, and lawyers who do their jobs are protected from violence. It is only in this atmosphere that justice can be had. Real justice can’t be had with violence," Solis added. – Rappler.com