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MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) will hold a dialogue with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), lower courts, and law enforcement agencies to discuss the protection of lawyers.
During the plenary deliberations at the House of Representatives for the judiciary’s 2024 budget on Thursday, September 21, Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas asked about the judiciary’s actions to protect its lawyers. Brosas’ question was anchored on the recent killing of lawyer Maria Saniata Liwliwa Alzate, who was killed in Bangued, Abra on September 14.
Responding to the question, Davao de Oro 2nd District Representative Ruwel Peter Gonzaga said the investigation is still ongoing, so the judiciary cannot give specific details on the case. Gonzaga, who sponsors the judiciary’s budget, added that courts utilize the power of contempt and show cause order in protecting its lawyers.
It has been a tradition during House budget deliberations that the sponsoring lawmaker answers the questions on behalf of the agency she/he is representing.
Gonzaga later said the SC will meet with other stakeholders – including the IBP as the national organization of Philippine lawyers – to discuss more mechanisms to ensure lawyers’ safety.
“Puwede naman po mag-initiate si Korte Suprema riyan, ipapatawag niya ang (The Supreme Court can initiate, can call the) IBP, and there will be sort of dialogue with the IBPs. Local, the IBP Abra, or even the national IBP and discuss the matters as to the securities not only those of the judges, but including the private lawyers working for the protection of our citizens,” Gonzaga said.
“So asahan niyo po, gagawin ng Korte Suprema ‘yan. Magkakaroon po ng dialogue ‘yong IBP, ‘yong PNP (Philippine National Police), ‘yong law enforcement agencies, as well as, the lower court members of the province of Abra (So please rely on us, the Supreme Court will do that. There will be a dialogue among the IBP, the PNP, law enforcement agencies, as well as the lower court members of the province of Abra),” the lawmaker added.
Alzate was a public interest lawyer, who helped clients illegally detained during former president Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war. She also handled a case where she secured a writ of amparo – a protective writ – for her client allegedly tortured by the Abra police.
Alzate also served as two-time president of IBP Abra, and was recently appointed an IBP Commissioner on Bar Discipline tasked to investigate and look into disciplinary cases against lawyers filed before the IBP.
The motorcycle-riding assailants who killed Alzate have yet to be captured, although Department of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said on Saturday, September 16, that they already have suspects. He added that the National Bureau of Investigation is on top of the probe.
Alzate is the third lawyer killed during the term of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s alone. Based on the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers’ tally, there were 113 lawyers slain from 1972 up to present, 61 of which were slain during former President Rodrigo Duterte’s time. – Rappler.com