Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta has urged Congress to immediately pass the bill creating the Philippine Judiciary Marshal Service to protect Judiciary members who have been targets of violent crimes.
“We really need our Judiciary Marshal Service because the Supreme Court (SC) cannot give the adequate security,” Peralta said.
In an online meeting with journalists last Friday, Peralta expressed confidence that members of Congress would find time to pass the needed legislation on PJMS.
A report submitted to Peralta by Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez showed that 31 trial court judges have been killed from January 1999 to November 2019.
Last November, Ilocos Sur Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Mario Banez was ambushed in Barangay Mameltac, San Fernando City, La Union while on his way home.
Banez was rushed to a hospital but was declared dead on arrival.
Peralta said the perpetrators of Banez’s death have not been identified.
Early this month, Camarines Sur RTC Judge Jeaneth Gaminde San Joaquin and a member of her staff were ambushed while on their way to Naga City.
Joaquin and staff member Rocelle Martinez survived the attack.
Peralta immediately sought an investigation. “I urged all law enforcement agencies to immediately investigate the matter and ensure that the perpetrators of this crime are apprehended,” he said a few hours after the ambush.
“An attack on our judges is an assault on the Rule of Law. This has no place in a civilized society like ours,” Peralta stressed.
“We want a security marshal so we would have the power to investigate and file cases before the courts, and the investigation will be faster.”
As envisioned by the bills’ proponents in Congress, the PJMS would be an independent, professional, and organized security force that would protect and defend judges, justices, and court officials and employees against any form of threats and violence.
Last November, Sen. Richard Gordon filed Senate Bill No. 118, known as “An Act Creating the Philippine Marshal Service Under the Control and Supervision of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Appropriating Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes.”
The bill was filed after Peralta stressed the need for a security force to protect Judiciary officials and personnel.
Gordon had reported that his bill had passed the committee deliberations.
Last March, the House Committee on Justice passed a substitute bill for the creation of PJMS.
Chaired by Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, the committee approved the unnumbered substitute measure which is a consolidation of seven bills.
Based on Gordon’s proposal, the PJMS will be under the Supreme Court Office of the Court Administrator and will be headed by a chief marshal with three deputy marshals in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
The PJMS’ functions would include the protection of justices, judges, court officials, and personnel; assessments and investigations of crimes against judges and justices; and filing of cases against the perpetrators of crimes against court officials and employees.
The bills on PJMS proposed that its officers must be lawyers and must have been at least a full colonel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or the Philippine National Police (PNP) or an assistant director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
PJMS officials would have to be appointed by the SC as a full court and they would serve until age 65. The initial budget was proposed at P100 million.
The bills also proposed that the SC would determine and define the powers, duties, and responsibilities of PJMS officials and personnel.