SENATOR Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III filed a resolution last Friday directing the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the series of killings of lawyers since 2010.
The most recent incident, Pimentel said, involved Cebu City lawyer Noel Archival who was killed along with two aides in an ambush along the national highway in Dalaguete, Cebu last February.
Pimentel noted that five former officials of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) 7 led by Senior Supt. Romualdo Iglesia are accused of conspiring to kill the victim when they are supposed to protect the people.
The National Bureau of Investigation 7 and the Special Investigation Task Group Archival filed criminal complaints against the five policemen last April.
The other victims
Aside from Archival, Pimentel identified the other lawyers killed between 2010 and 2012 as Prosecutor Macadatar Marsangca of Iligan City; Judge Reynaldo Lacasandile of Tagudin, Ilocos Sur; Judge Fredelito Pingao of Currimao, Ilocos Norte; Archer Baldwin Martinez of Dumaguete City; Manolo Zema of Tanjay City, Negros Oriental; Xerxes Balios Camacho of Northern Samar; Nicomedes Romagos of Cataingan, Maasbate; Lazaro Gayo of Agoo, La Union; and Sulpicio Landicho of Tanauan City, Batangas.
“The inquiry would help the Senate draft measures to secure the safety and welfare of the members of the Philippine bar,” Pimentel said.
Citing reports from August 4, 2010 to November 14, 2012, Pimentel said the nine lawyers, including two members of the bench and a prosecutor, were “murdered or assassinated.”
From 2001 to 2009, at least 23 lawyers and judges were also murdered, Pimentel said.
The figure could be higher, according to Pimentel, citing a manifestation by 2012 Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Roan Libarios that “at least 200 lawyers and judges have been shot dead in cold blood in the last 10 years.”
In his resolution, Pimentel said paragraph 17 of the Basic Principles of the Constitution provides that “where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by authorities. The senator said Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that the “state values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”
Prosecution lawyer Gloria Lastimosa-Dalawampu said a Senate inquiry on the killings of lawyers, including the ambush-slay of Archival, is “useless” because solving the crimes is not a “legislative concern.”
“What’s the difference between a lawyer’s life and a driver’s? There is nothing, right? They should focus on the causes of deteriorating peace and order, social and moral values,” she said. “Another inquiry is papogi (to grandstand). What a waste of people’s money.”
Dalawampu and fellow lawyer Democrito Barcenas represent the Archival family.
Talamban Councilor Nelson Archival, however, said he would appreciate the Senate inquiry on the killings and he “appreciates” Pimentel’s move to call for an inquiry.
“Plotters and killers should be put behind bars, much more if the suspects are members of the Philippine National Police. They are supposed to protect civilians,” he said. “No matter how powerful they are justice will prevail.”
Lawyers Inocencio de la Cerna Jr. and Hazan Bargamento, who are defending the five former HPG 7 officials, also welcomed an inquiry.
They said their clients should be presented during the inquiry so they can clear their names because the “baseless complaints” are affecting their families.
“The ways of the investigating body should be presented because there are some police officials who have been included in the criminal case, but actually do not have any participation in the crime,” de la Cerna said. (EOB/KAL)