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MANILA, Philippines -- The Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Thursday urged the executive branch of government to submit its formal complaints against the four incumbent judges accused by President Rodrigo Duterte of protecting the drug trade, to the Supreme Court.
In a statement signed by its board, the lawyers’ organization “strongly urges the Executive Branch of Government, including its law enforcement arms, to forward to the Supreme Court the formal complaints or actionable information against erring judges so that the judiciary can perform its duty to police its own ranks whether in an adversarial proceeding or a motu propio investigation.”
“The Filipino people would be best served by cooperation and convergence between” the executive and judiciary “in lieu of the perceived divergence of positions” between the two branches of government, the IBP said.
The rift between the branches came after Duterte included seven judges among government and law enforcement officials he publicly accused of involvement in the drug trade.
Of the seven, only four -- Adriano Savillo, who handles a family court in Iloilo City; Exequit Dagala of the Municipal Trial Court of Dapa-Socorro, Surigao, which does not handle drugs cases; Domingo Casiple who presides over a court of general jurisdiction and also does not handle drugs cases; and Antonio Reyes of Baguio City, the only one who presides over the designated drug court there -- are still active.
One of the remaining three, one has died, another was dismissed, and the third has retired.
Responding to Duterte’s naming of the judges, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno wrote him a letter pointing out that the “premature announcement” of their names would have an adverse effect on the courts.
Subsequently, Sereno ordered an administrative investigation of the four incumbent judges, assigning retired Justice Roberto Abad to handle the probe and giving Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea a week to submit formal complaints against them.
However, Duterte, piqued by Sereno’s letter, threatened to order officials of the executive branch not to honor the high court and asked if she would “rather that I declare martial law.”
The IBP said Sereno was correct “in directing the Executive Secretary to formalize the charges against the supposedly erring judges, in order to afford the latter the opportunity to propound answers or explanations in their defense, in keeping with the rudimentary rules of administrative due process.”
“It is only when such explanations are found wanting that the High Court exercises its power of discipline over errant members of the judicial department,” it said, noting that that “it is a basic rule in our Constitutional design as a democratic and republican State that, thereafter, disciplinary power over them is lodged exclusively in the Supreme Court.”
The IBP also stressed that the doctrine of separation of powers “ensures that no branch of government is controlled or subjected to the influence of another.”
“The principle finds no more cogent application than in the case of our judges who are sworn to be impartial and must resolve cases based only on the facts and the applicable law,” it added.
While acknowledging that Duterte “may have been impelled by urgent considerations in his public censure of government officials under him,” the IBP said that “judges perform unique functions so essential in the dispensation of justice that require insulation or protection from all types of unwarranted pressure.”
THE FULL TEXT OF THE IBP STATEMENT: