SC OKs P1-M reward fund to solve killings of judges

Published by rudy Date posted on December 12, 2008

The Supreme Court yesterday approved the creation of a P1-million reward fund for informants who can help authorities solve the killings of judges across the country.

The SC made the move following the recent killing of San Juan Metropolitan Trial Court Judge Philip Labastida in his home in Quezon City.

Labastida was found dead last Dec. 7 with several stab wounds, police said. Robbery was being eyed as a motive.

Acting on the recommendation of the SC Committee on Security, the tribunal approved the grant of the reward, which will come from the Philippine Judges Foundation Inc. (PJFI) headed by retired Chief Justice Andres Narvasa.

Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., who chairs the SC Committee on Security, said a reward of P100,000 will be given to informants or witnesses for information leading to the identity of a person threatening or killing any member of the judiciary. Another PP100,000 will be given upon the latter’s conviction.

Informants or witnesses may contact the SC through the Office of Assistant Court Administrator Edwin Villasor at (+632) 521-6809, or Atty. Allan Contado and Jason Domingo of the National Bureau of Investigation’s Task Force for Judiciary Protection at (+632) 523-8231.

SC records show that 16 judges have been killed since 1999, the latest victim being Judge Labastida.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno has condemned Labastida’s killing and called for the early resolution of the case. “The entire judiciary strongly condemns the killing of Judge Labastida. I am urging the police authorities to exert all efforts for the immediate apprehension of those responsible for Judge Labastida’s death,” Puno said.

In addition to the reward system, the SC earlier had also drawn up measures to curb the work-related killings of judges.

In August 2007, Puno, through Memorandum Circular No. 10-2007, provided an interim security procedure to improve the security for justices and judges pending the issuance of a comprehensive security protocol for the lower courts.

The security protocol designates two focal persons, whom all justices and judges should immediately contact in case of threats to their security or safety.

Assigned as contact persons are Deputy Court Administrator Reuben de la Cruz and Atty. Allan Contado, liaison officer to the Supreme Court for the NBI’s Task Force for Judiciary Protection.

The protocol was based on the recommendations of the Committee on Security of the Judiciary in response to the spate of violence and killings against members of the judiciary, especially lower court judges who are continuously exposed to violent attacks.

In 2005, the SC approved the Guidelines for Detail of Court Personnel as Security of Judges.

The guidelines cover all Regional Trial Courts, Shari’a District Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Shari’a Circuit Courts.

Under the guidelines, a judge who receives a direct threat may apply with the Philippine National Police (PNP) for protective security. A direct threat is defined as “an actual threat of danger or physical harm.”

If the judge is under an imminent threat or if his request to the PNP is denied, he or she may apply with the SC Security Committee for authority to designate a member of his or her staff as an escort.

An imminent threat is defined as “a probable danger of death or physical harm.” Only one court employee may be designated as a judge’s escort.

Likewise, the SC, through the Office of the Court Administrator, inked a memorandum of agreement with the PNP in 2005 “to work and coordinate with each other in the processing of permits to carry licensed firearms by the members of the judiciary,” especially those who are receiving death threats.

Under the MOA, judges are granted permits to carry firearms even outside their stations.

Also, in 2004, the SC abolished the heinous crimes’ courts owing to their “relatively low caseloads.” It added that the set-up made a judge of a heinous crimes’ court “easily identifiable, making him/her an easy prey to vindictive litigants.” –Mike Frialde, Philippine Star

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