By Jay B. Rempillo
Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno today urged police authorities to expedite their investigation into the ambush-slaying of Judge Roberto Navidad of Calbayog City Regional Trial Court, Branch 32. Judge Navidad was shot dead by a lone gunman in Calbayog City in Samar province on Monday night.
The entire Judiciary condemns the killing of Judge Navidad. I am urging the authorities to exert their best efforts for the immediate apprehension of those responsible for Judge Navidads death, Chief Justice Puno said.
Navidad, the 15th judge to be ambushed since 1999, was boarding his car in front of a pharmacy in Calbayog City when a gunman allegedly approached and shot him in the face using a .45 pistol. Judge Navidad reportedly has been receiving death threats last year.
To curb the work-related killing of judges, the Court has already taken several security measures.
Last month, the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) held a three-day seminar dubbed as Personal Security Training for Judges. The judges-participants were given a lecture on, among others, Crime Prevention & Basic First Aid, Technical Facts Regarding Firearms and Ammunition, Threat Awareness & Personal Security Measures, and Firearms Orientation, Markmanship, and Technical Proficiency Traning.
In August last year, Chief Justice Puno, through Memorandum Circular No. 10-2007, has provided an interim security procedure to improve the security for justices and judges pending the issuance of a comprehensive security protocol for the lower courts.
The new security protocol designates two focal persons, whom all justices and judges should immediately contact in case of threats to their security or safety. Assigned as contact persons are Deputy Court Administrator (DCA) Reuben dela Cruz and Atty. Allan C. Contado, who is also the Liaison Officer to the for the NBIs Task Force for Judiciary Protection.
The new protocol was based on the recommendations of the Committee on Security of the Judiciary in response to the recent spate of violence and killings against members of the Judiciary, especially judges in the lower courts who are continuously exposed to violent attacks.
The Committee, chaired by Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., is also in the process of completing the SC Security Manual.
In 2005, the Court approved the Guidelines for Detail of Court Personnel as Security of Judges. The Guidelines cover all Regional Trial Courts, Sharia District Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Sharia Circuit Courts.
Under the Guidelines, a judge who receives a direct threat may apply with the Philippine National Police (PNP) for protective security. A direct threat is defined as an actual threat of danger or physical harm.
If the judge is under an imminent threat or if his request to the PNP is denied, he or she may apply with the Courts Security Committee for authority to designate a member of the judges staff as an escort. An imminent threat is defined as a probable danger of death or physical harm. Only one employee of the court may be designated as an escort by the judge.
Likewise, the Court, through the Office of the Court Administrator, has inked a Memorandum of Agreement with the Philippine National Police in 2005 to work and coordinate with each other in the processing of Permits to Carry Licensed Firearms of the members of the Judiciary, especially those who are receiving death threats. With the MOA, judges are granted permits to carry their firearms even outside their stations.
In 2004, the Court abolished the Heinous Crimes Courts owing to the relatively low caseloads in the said courts and considering that the current set-up makes a Heinous Crime Court Judge easily identifiable, making him/her an easy prey to vindictive litigants. Heinous crimes are now cognizable by all second-level courts.
Likewise, the Court provided for the conduct of orientation field seminars on Personal Security Protection for incoming and incumbent judges with the support of the National Bureau of Investigation, the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine Judicial Academy.
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