Alarmed by the continued rise in the number of attacks against lawyers, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has introduced a measure increasing the penalty against crimes committed against lawyers by considering these offenses as aggravating circumstance.
De Lima, a lawyer by profession, filed Senate Bill No. 780 which seeks to include the crime committed against lawyers and other justice sector officials as aggravating circumstance, thereby amending Section 14 of the Revised Penal Code.
“There is a clear need to amend existing law to establish a clear government police to protect our justice system and the persons tasked to administer justice,” she said.
“To deter commission of crimes against the person and property of lawyers and justice sector officials, this bill increases penalty against crimes committed against them by considering such crimes as an aggravating circumstance,” she added.
The former justice secretary cited the unabated spate of killings against members of the legal profession in recent years. According to the Alternative Law Journal, at least 114 legal professionals were killed between January 1999 and October 2004.
Under the present administration, at least 40 judges, prosecutors and lawyers have been killed, with almost half of them gunned down by unidentified men. Just recently, lawyers Anthony Trinidad and Nicolas Gomez Jr. were gunned down in separate incidents in Negros Oriental and Bukidnon, respectively.
Last March 2019, an international delegation composed of lawyers from Belgium, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands and the United States came to the country to investigate the spate of killings, harassment and intimidation involving lawyers.
The delegation interviewed survivors, victims’ relatives, government agencies and prosecutors to beef up its reports, which they will submit to the United Nations Human Rights Council, International Criminal Court and other international organizations.
Aside from this, various human rights organizations and lawyers groups, such as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, have expressed alarm over the recent incidents.
According to the lady Senator from Bicol, an additional layer of protection for lawyers should be provided to them as they put themselves in harm’s way against people who want to undermine the country’s justice system.
“We are a nation governed by the rule of law. This principle is based on our values which state that power is not lodged on any individual ruler but on the people and on the law,” she said.
“As such, the effective and efficient management of justice is paramount to our way of life,” she added.
Under SB 780, Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code should include “crimes committed against the person or property of lawyers and justice sector officials, in the fulfilment of their duty on in their lawful exercise of a right or office, be considered as aggravating circumstances.”
De Lima said she is hopeful that once passed into law, this new provision will deter commission of crimes against the lawyers and justice sector officials.