THE House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill that seeks to provide armed protection to trial judges, amid escalating threats to their personal safety.
House Bill 9086 seeks to establish the Judiciary Marshals Service, which shall operate “as an independent, professional, and organized security force under the direct control and supervision of the Supreme Court.”
“The service may have up to 2,800 marshals, assuming at least one is detailed to every trial judge and every justice,” said Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, the bill’s principal author, in a press release sent to SunStar Cebu.
Cebu City Regional Trial Court Branch 8 Judge Macaundas Hadjirasul said in an interview on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, that the House’s approval of the bill is one of the best developments that happened for the judiciary amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We will no longer need the help of the already overburdened law enforcement agencies for the security of our judges, court personnel and halls of justice, as well as in the performance of the duties of our sheriffs and process servers,” he said.
Hadjirasul, former RTC executive judge, said he hopes the bill becomes a law.
RTC Cebu City Executive Judge Marlon Moneva welcomed the bill, saying RTC judges, for the longest time, have been dreaming of this kind of marshal service and they would no longer depend on the state’s law enforcers for their security.
Based on the judiciary’s staffing summary in the 2021 General Appropriations Act, Pimentel said the country has 2,772 active trial judges and justices.
“Once set into motion, the service will help deter and thwart armed attacks against our judges,” Pimentel said, adding that the marshals are expected to proactively deal with all actionable threats.
In the smaller chamber, the counterpart measure—Senate Bill 1947—is already up for plenary action.
Under the bill, the service shall be headed by a chief marshal, who shall have the same rank and privileges as an associate justice of the Supreme Court.
The chief marshal shall be assisted by three deputies—one each for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao—who shall have the same rank and privileges as a regional trial court judge.
The chief marshal and his or her three deputies must all be members of the Philippine Bar, and must have held the rank of at least a full colonel in the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police, or assistant director of the National Bureau of Investigation.
They shall be appointed by the Supreme Court and serve until they reach the age of 65 years old.
The bill leaves it up to the high tribunal to configure the full staffing pattern of service, which is expected to:
* Protect justices, judges, court officials and staff as well as court properties;
* Investigate, in coordination with other law enforcement agencies, crimes and offenses committed against justices, judges, court officials and staff as well as court assets;
* Secure court trials and hearings, including meetings and seminars; and
* Aid in the execution of court orders.
* Under the bill, the marshals are empowered to:
* Carry duly licensed firearms;
* Conduct arrests, searches and seizures in relation to their functions, and in accordance with the Constitution, existing laws and rules;
* Issue subpoenas for the appearance of any person for investigation, apply for search warrants before any court, and file complaints before any prosecutor;
* Take sworn statements from any person summoned in relation to cases under investigation; and
* Have access to public records in the custody of any government agency when needed. (with WBS)