Press Release
December 19, 2008

Lack of sitting court judges contributes to breakdown of
law and order - Pimentel

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today urged judicial, justice and law enforcement authorities to work with Congress to address the lack of a functioning legal system in Sulu caused by the vacancies in the municipal courts in the island-province at the country's southern backdoor.

Moreover, Pimentel said there are supposed to be four Regional Trial Courts aside from municipal trial courts in the l8 towns in Sulu, but his information was that all the assigned judges stay and hold sessions in Zamboanga City in Zamboanga del Sur due to concerns for their personal safety.

He said it takes several hours for people to travel from Sulu to Zamboanga City and this adds to the piling of cases, if cases are filed at all for the adjudication of the courts.

The senator from Mindanao said the fact that the courts are virtually non-existent in Sulu aggravates the law and order problem in the insurgency-wracked province.

"If there is no working legal system in Sulu, where will the people to seek redress for their grievances? Probably, they will resort to what Mao Tse Tung had once said that power emanates from the barrel of the gun. And that is probably what is happening in Sulu today," Pimentel said.

"If one has a grievance, he kills the person who caused the grievance to him. So we have this situation where there is a lot of bloodshed in Sulu, but we cannot stem that kind of violent mode in the island of Sulu unless we have a judiciary that is able to hear the grievances of the people."

According to the minority leader, the judges assigned to Sulu are hesitant to go to the island-province because "they are afraid that they might end up being at the other end being at the other end of the gun."

Saying there should be a way to handle that situation, Pimentel suggested to Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the committee on justice and human rights, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, to look into the possibility of raising or doubling the salary of judges assigned in Sulu and providing them with security to ensure their personal safety.

Pimentel said the lack of sitting judges in Sulu has been going on for years but government authorities concerned have turned a blind eye to the problem, pretending that they are not aware of it.

"I cannot imagine how we can consider Sulu as a part of the Republic of the Philippines if there is not a single working sala of the courts there," he said.

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