Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has denounced the recent killing of an Ilocos Sur judge that once again adds up to the growing list of members of the legal profession who were killed under the Duterte administration.
De Lima, a known election lawyer before she joined government service, called the murder of Tagudin, Ilocos Sur Judge Mario Anacleto Bañez as another “handiwork of the culture of death propagated no less by President Duterte.”
“I condemn the murder of Judge Mario Bañez in San Fernando, La Union. As the sixth judge and 43rd person of the law to be killed under the Duterte administration, Bañez’ death is a vicious assault on the judicial sector,” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 644.
According to news reports, Bañez was shot to death by still-unidentified assailants while on board his vehicle in Bgy. Mameltac, San Fernando, La Union last Nov. 5. The motive behind the crime is yet to be identified.
Less than two months before his murder, Bañez acquitted Cordillera health worker Rachel Mariano of murder last September. Mariano was reportedly accused by the army as a member of the New People’s Army who led the ambush of members of the 81st Infantry Battalion in 2017 in Quirino, Ilocos Sur that killed one soldier.
De Lima, a known social justice and human rights champion, pointed out that the 43 law professionals who were killed under the leadership of Mr. Duterte only reflects the reality that not even justice workers are safe in the country.
“It seems like there is no safe place for the workers in the judiciary, despite their sector being a bastion of the rule of law. One death is simply too many,” she said.
“With the rising death toll of lawyers, prosecutors and judges, we must ask: who will be the resort of the oppressed, when members of the legal community are being killed?” she added.
With the unprecedented and still-unresolved attacks and killings against Filipino lawyers in the country, the former justice secretary underscored the urgency of the Senate investigation into the extrajudicial killings involving law professionals here.
“The continuing attacks must be stopped. That is why I filed last month Senate Resolution 170, seeking an inquiry into the continuing attacks and killings of lawyers, prosecutors and judges. This recent death makes this inquiry an urgent concern that the Senate must look into now,” she said.
“Hindi naaayon ang ganitong patayan sa ating lipunan, lalo na at ang mga abugado at hukom ang nakikitang pag-asa ng inaapi para makamit ang katarungan mula sa mga abusado,” she added.
In filing Senate Resolution No. 170 in the 18th Congress, De Lima urged the Duterte administration to exhaust all efforts to investigate the systematic attacks and unjust killings of Filipino lawyers and finally end the attacks against them.
In the previous Congress, De Lima filed Senate Bill No. 624 seeking to grant hazard pay for justice sector officials who face security and life-threatening dangers for fulfilling their mandate, including handling criminal cases and being assigned to conflict or disaster areas.