Prosecutors unfazed despite Marawi fiscal’s killing

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014


GOVERNMENT prosecutors in Northern Mindanao have vowed to do their job in spite of the killing of Marawi City Assistant Prosecutor Saipal Alawi Sr. on Monday.

In an interview with Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro on Tuesday morning, Regional Prosecutor Jaime Umpa assured that with Salawi’s untimely death, the National Prosecution Service (NPS) will remain effective in handling cases in Northern Mindanao.

“The NPS remains steadfast and strong, and it will not be cowed by this senseless act of cowardice. We will continue to do our jobs so that justice will be served to those who deserve it,” Umpa said.

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NPS, together with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), is the prosecuting arm of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Although Alawi Sr. was not under Umpa’s jurisdiction (Marawi belongs to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or Armm), Umpa said prosecutors from all over the country share the same concerns on matters of security and safety, especially if they are handling high-profile cases.

Umpa said he also knew Alawi Sr. personally.

“I knew him (Saipal). He was a good person. He was a big loss to the NPS in the Armm,” he said, adding that Alawi had no known enemy, although he did receive a death threat before he was killed.

Time and again, Umpa said he has always been reminding prosecutors in the region to be careful and be ready for any eventuality, as threats are part of a prosecutor’s life.

He said these threats cannot be avoided once a prosecutor issues a resolution that would lead to the filing of a case in court.

In instances where prosecutors handle cases, it is expected that the accused party will hold grudges against them and might even resort to extralegal means, he said.

Hazard pay

“Our work as prosecutors is risky. It can’t be denied, it’s inherent in our job,” Umpa said.

Because of this, Umpa said prosecutors should educate themselves in gun handling and to arm themselves, if possible, as defense against people who want to silence them.

When he was the president of the Prosecutors League of the Philippines (PLP), Umpa said he also lobbied for the approval of the “hazard pay” for its members because of the nature of their work.

He also supported the proposal of allowing prosecutors to carry firearms for their protection without the need to undergo the tedious process of obtaining licenses to own and carry.

Umpa said that a bit of paranoia on the part of the prosecutor could help. “It’s better to feel a little paranoia than being over confident.”

He added that when a prosecutor receives a death threat or feel he or she is being stalked, the best thing to do is to report it to authorities and request for an armed escort, if needed.

Meanwhile, in an e-mailed statement to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro on Tuesday, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) chapter in Marawi condemned Alawi’s killing.

“The IBP will not allow this dastardly act to pass unpunished. We call on the authorities to bring the criminals whoever he is to justice,” said lawyer Boni Balt, IBP Marawi chapter president.

Also in a report, Prosecutor General Claro Arellano said Alawi’s murder was a “despicable and senseless act of cowardice which has no place in a civilized society, regardless of faith or creed.”

“We are deeply saddened that he (Alawi) had to be offered as an inspiring sacrifice in the altar of our democratic institution, whose blood will certainly nourish the pillars of the criminal justice system,” Arellano added.

Alawi’s killing was not the first incident involving a prosecutor in recent memory.

Killed prosecutor

On August 4, 2010, Lanao del Norte prosecutor Macadatar Marsangca was shot while jogging in Barangay Tubod, Iligan city.

Umpa said it was unfortunate that Marsangca’s death has remained unresolved until now, as no case was filed since no witnesses had come forward to testify.

The following year, on March 15, 2011, Maguindanao Prosecutor Akilala Balt was shot dead.

Akilala was a part of the eight-member panel formed by the DOJ to handle the infamous Maguindanao massacre.

Umpa said Akilala’s gunman was arrested and brought to trial but the mastermind remained scot-free, although he was identified, for lack of evidence.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 21, 2014.

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