Press Release
April 6, 2008


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the arming of justices and judges to protect themselves against hired guns shows how badly law and order has deteriorated in the country.

Pimentel expressed grave concern that even justices and judges of the courts, upon whom victims of crimes and violence rely in their quest for justice, are fair game in a society plagued by extra-judicial killings and seemingly helpless against attacks by criminal elements.

The arming of judges, he said, creates a scenario reminiscent of the "Wild West", during the "modernization of western America, where the fastest gunslinger was king."

"It's the duty of government to protect its people, including judges from criminals," he said.

"It's a sad indictment of the law and order situation that judge must buy guns to protect themselves. While the judges can borrow money to buy guns, how about the poor who can ill afford to buy a kilo of rice for their families? How will they protect themselves from the criminals?" he asked

According to reports, the first batch of 200 judges and justices can procure their own guns through a loan from a P10 million fund initially made available by the Supreme Court for the purpose.

The decision to arm the officials of the courts was a preventive measure taken by the judicial authorities in the wake reports that a number of judges have received death threats.

At least 15 judges of inferior courts have been slain by assassins since 1999. The latest victim was Calbayog City Regional Trial Court Judge Roberto Natividad, who was gunned down last January.

Pimentel observed that court trial rooms and halls of justice are poorly secured, making the judges and litigants vulnerable to the threat of physical harm from lawless elements and other people who have an axe to grind against them.

In a recent incident, former Mayor Rey Yap of Sapang Dalaga, Misamis Occidental was killed after being peppered with bullets by a gunman who was able to enter the court room at the Manila City Hall during the trial of a murder case.

Pimentel said the problem would not have gone this far had the Arroyo government not fallen short in the tasks of solving the spate of extra-judicial killings, especially in seeing to it that the perpetrators are sent to jail.

The biggest number of victims of summary executions consists of leftist activists and there is ample evidence that most of them have been perpetrated by soldiers and policemen as part of the counter-insurgency campaign.

On the other hand, the killings of journalists, lawyers, justices and judges, auditors and other public officials have been mostly perpetrated by mercenary killers.

Pimentel decried the government's inept handling of the prosecution of suspects in the extrajudicial killings of political activists. In fact, he said there has been no conviction of military officers and men accused in these cases despite the designation of 99 Regional Trial Courts as special courts to try this type of crimes.

He said witnesses are scared of coming forward to testify against the culprits because of lack of protection from the government and the perception that high-ranking military and police officials are coddling the suspects.

"Undoubtedly, the government's lukewarm attention in having the cases of extra-judicial killings solved has only emboldened the assassins and the death squads in carrying out their evil profession," he said.

Contrary to the loud pronouncements of security and intelligence authorities, Pimentel said there has been no honest-to-goodness efforts to track down and break up these gun-for-hire syndicates.

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