Seares: On killing of lawyers: Atty. Edgar Gica says lawyers who ‘play with fire get burned.’ Bobby Nalzaro told protection plan relates to IBP polls.

·4 min read

THE Jan. 18 proposal for a “lawyer’s protection program” against the rash of killings of lawyers, presented by a group of 11 lawyers from the Cebu province chapter of IBP or Integrated Bar of the Philippines, is getting interesting reactions.

Notably from (1) long-time law practitioner and former mayor, Edgar F. Gica (father of Dumanjug, Cebu mayor Efren Guntrano Gica) and (2) broadcaster-SunStar columnist Bobby Nalzaro.

Atty. Gica thinks the lawyers being killed in Cebu are mostly those who “played with fire.” Nalzaro doesn’t think the lawyers deserve special treatment and should find out the real motive for the killings. It must not be hatred against the profession and its practitioners.

No specifics from Gica

Presumably, Atty. Gica referred to handling of controversial cases by those who are felled by killers’ bullets. Or more specifically, but not said publicly by most people, in apparent deference to the deceased and the surviving relatives: lawyers who shortchanged the client or lawyers who defended known felons that the state considers its enemies.

No, he didn’t mention specifics. But Atty. Gica, in reaction to my Jan. 20, 2021 News Sense column “Cebu lawyers pushing protection program,” wrote: “The best protection program for lawyers, especially those in litigation, is their focus, their heart and mind, on the law on human relations.” He cited Art. 19 of the Civil Code, “Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and the performance of his duties, act with just, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.” And, he added, the oath, “(the lawyer)...shall delay no man for money” and the ASAP (“always say a prayer”).

His formula, Atty. Gica said, is the “lawyer’s best protection” against killings. It works more effectively than “the services of police escorts or bodyguards.”

‘What’s special with lawyers?’

Bobby Nalzaro, in his SunStar Jan. 22, 2021 column, gave pointers on how a lawyer can own and carry a firearm. Republic Act 10591 of 2014, which amends the original gun law RA 8294, mentions lawyers among the professionals who are justified in possessing a handgun, along with nurses, engineers and bank tellers.

In effect, lawyers under the amendment no longer have to prove actual threat or danger to deserve a gun license or permit. The Cebu lawyers group wants the rules to be relaxed further, maybe, particularly, the requirement on psychiatric tests.

Bobby didn’t ask if lawyers fear not being certified as non-pyscho. Instead, he wrote, “What is so special with lawyers?” Journalists, he said, “whose profession is also considered highly dangerous, will complain and demand the same privilege.”

The column took up the plans on close-in security, safe houses, relocation and training for lawyers. That would strain resources of government, Bobby said. Could the lawyers themselves or their IBP chapters bear the expenses?

The lawyers groups could look into the reason or motive in the recent murders of lawyers. It could be what Atty. Gica referred to as personal conduct or behavior of each lawyer victim.

Nalzaro brashly asked, “Were the lawyers who crafted the lawyers protection program doing it to push plans and aspirations in next month’s IBP election of officers?” They were, he was told. Still he hoped it was not true.

Thing called impunity

But that does not totally justify the rash of executions of attorneys: 55 across the country since President Duterte assumed office in June 2016, the last three staged in Cebu, which the IBP province lawyers call “the epicenter.”

Whatever other explanation for the high number of lawyers killed, there must be a culprit other than the victim. How about the thing called impunity, which basically means “exemption from punishment or freedom from injurious consequences of an action”?

No state policy, even unwritten, that killers are free to murder certain kinds of lawyers. It’s more of a belief among criminals and those who contract the killing that the “perps” have excellent chances, especially for masterminds, to walk.

The reasons obviously are the ease with which the killing can be done: (1) access to guns for hire and precision in executing the crime—complete, as in a recent operation, with team leader and supervisor—and (2) the uneven, often delayed or failed, performance in catching and prosecuting the principal criminals.

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