“To safeguard the rule of law, first of all, let’s protect all the lawyers.”
Paraphrasing Shakespeare’s famous line from Henry VI, House Committee on Justice Vice Chair and Rizal 2nd District Rep. Juan Fidel Nograles stressed the need to ensure the safety of lawyers in the country and called for an investigation into the murders of lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.
“When lawyers are unable to perform their duties because they fear for their lives, this is when the rule of law starts to break down.”
Nograles revealed on Wednesday that he filed House Resolution No. 185 last Monday because he believed it was time for government to act on the murders of lawyers, who he referred to as the “watchmen of the rule of law.”
“An assault on the legal profession is an assault on the rule of law,” said the lawyer, who explained that under the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, “governments should guarantee for the functioning of lawyers such that they are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.”
The Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers was adopted in 1990 by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in Havana, Cuba, said Nograles, who obtained his Master’s Degree in Law from Harvard University.
According to Nograles, who managed a free legal aid program in Rizal before being elected to Congress, “when lawyers are unable to perform their duties because they fear for their lives, this is when the rule of law starts to break down.”
“We cannot and should not allow this to happen.”
Since July 2016, 41 lawyers––private practitioners, prosecutors, and judges––have been killed in the country.
Aside from calling for an inquiry into the deaths, Nograles also appealed to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to form a task force to take steps to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.
“If the perpetrators of these crimes are allowed to commit these murders with impunity, these will embolden others to use violence and intimidation to prevent members of the Bar from performing their duties and responsibilities as lawyers,” lamented Nograles.
“Panahon na po para umaksyon. Di na natin pwede hayaan na lumala pa ang problema na ito.”