Amid murders, IBP head says rule of law still intact

FOR MOST lawyers and judges, the past three years under President Rodrigo Duterte could be considered one of the most challenging times for the law profession and the judiciary.

But the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is still confident that the rule of law would always prevail.

While the IBP seems to be at loggerheads with some branches of the government, IBP national president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo said they seek to address the issues individually.

“We are not saying that collectively there are legal shortcuts. It really depends on the issue,” he said during the Democracy and Disinformation Conference on Friday, Feb. 8, 2018, in Iloilo City.

Fajardo was the keynote speaker of the one-day event hosted by the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, in partnership with PHINMA University of Iloilo, University of the Philippines-Visayas and National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)-Iloilo chapter.

For one, Fajardo said they publicly denounced the successive killings of lawyers.

“We have noted that each month there is a lawyer killed. And many of these are lawyers are known to have been handling cases for clients who are accused of various drug offenses. So, to us that is a shortcut,” he said.

Since July 2016, IBP recorded 37 lawyers, prosecutors, and judges who were killed.

While some may have been killed due to personal motives, Fajardo noted that most of the victims handled drug cases.

The number already included the killing of Rep. Rodel Batocabe of the Ako Bicol party list group.

The latest was the slaying of a former Cebu prosecutor.

“You don’t kill the messenger. You do not kill and stigmatize lawyers that handle drug cases because to us, a drug case is just any other criminal case,” Fajardo said.

He said there is no sense in killing a lawyer who is a defendant of a person accused of rape or murder.

“In the same manner, a drug case is just a case to us. You present the evidences based on the rules of court and we defend the client to the best of our abilities,” he said.

Fajardo said the IBP denounced killings and formally petitioned the Supreme Court to sit with them with the law enforcement personalities so that they could collectively address those killing.

Despite the IBP’s contrasting stand on issues like the West Philippine Sea and the ouster of the Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Fajardo believes that there is no breakdown of the rule of law.

But he noted the Philippines’ ranking on the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index went down 18 notches since 2015.

The WJP Rule of Law Index is a quantitative assessment tool designed to offer a detailed and comprehensive picture of the extent to which countries adhere to the rule of law in practice.

“It means that the major measures on how the other branches of the government can check the executive department have decreased,” he said.



Fajardo said he and majority of the lawyers wish for the rule of law to be upheld at all times.

“It is in the role of law where we are all equal. It’s the standard in which we can win or loses our cases and advocacies. So, if there are elements outside of the rule of law, corruption, fear or intimidation, it might erode the confidence and perception of the people on the justice system,” he said.

Fajardo took as an example the congestion at the country’s jail facilities.

“If there are a lot of inmates and a number of them were detained without basis, it aggravates the jail congestion. I have been into jails and I have seen the inhumane treatment of prisoners. It now becomes a cycle,” he said.

Fajardo said “if the government blindly pursue criminal elements and the justice is not also efficient, this will further exacerbate things.”

But with a justice system working efficiently, it could lead to solving a lot issues and “that’s our advocacy at the IBP ever since.”

Fajardo said that with all the constraints, plus budgetary considerations, it would just be wishful thinking for now.