MANILA -- (UPDATE) A bill creating a Philippine marshals system for judges has been filed at the House of Representatives, a lawmaker said Sunday.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel filed House Bill 5403 following the killing of Ilocos Sur judge Mario Bañez earlier this month, as justices called for tighter security.
Bañez is the 31st judge killed since January 1999 and the 5th under the term of President Rodrigo Duterte, according to data from the Office of the Court Administrator.
Under the measure, the marshals must have the following requirements:
- A bachelor’s degree holder
- At least 21 years old but not older than 35
- Undergo training at the Philippine Public Safety College
- Possess suitable firearms for the proper protection of court officers and properties
- Serve as “peace officers” and as such, have the power to conduct arrests, searches and seizures in accordance with existing laws and rules
- Investigate and counteract crimes against judicial officers
- Take and require sworn truthful statements of any person or persons so summoned in relation to cases under investigation
There are 2,561 trial judges in the country, Pimentel said, citing data from the judiciary’s staffing summary in the 2019 General Appropriations Act.
Of this figure, 1,301 are Regional Trial Court judges, 169 are Metro Trial Court judges, 257 are City Trial Court judges, 468 are Municipal Circuit Trial Court judges, and 366 are Municipal Trial Court judges.
Aside from the 15 members of the Supreme Court (SC), there are also 70 justices of the Court of Appeals and 9 justices of the Court of Tax Appeals.
SC spokesperson Brian Hosaka welcomed the bill's filing.
"This bill is of utmost importance, and we do hope that this initiative continues to gain traction until a law is eventually passed at the soonest possible time," he said.
"It goes without saying that when we protect our magistrates, we also protect the rule of law. We thank our lawmakers for their prompt action on this matter."