Monday, August 15, 2016

International jurists to Duterte: Respect independence of judiciary | Headlines, News, The Philippine Star |

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MANILA, Philippines — An organization of eminent judges and lawyers around the world urged President Rodrigo Duterte to respect the independence of the judiciary, a co-equal branch of government.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) made the statement in response to the president's announcement of judges allegedly linked to the illegal drug trade.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno had sent a letter to Duterte, stressing that the judicial branch has the responsibility to discipline judges.

Duterte, however, told Sereno that he may order the executive department not to honor the judiciary and warned her not to set off a "constitutional crisis."

A few days later, the president apologized to the chief justice for his "harsh words" that he claimed were unintended.

The organization stressed that the judiciary has institutional independence, particularly in disciplining its own judges.

"According to the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the body responsible for the discipline of judges should be independent of the executive and composed mainly (if not solely) of judges and members of the legal profession," the ICJ said in a statement released Thursday.

The ICJ called on the Supreme Court to establish and employ its established mechanisms to discipline its own judges.

The international organization of judges and lawyers also expressed concern over the proposed reimposition of the death penalty and the rising number of killings of people allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.

"The proposed reintroduction of the death penalty, the spate of extrajudicial killings, and the fervor currently exhibited by President Duterte in going after allegedly corrupt members of the judiciary are directly linked to his zeal to address a perceived widespread drug menace in the country," ICJ Regional Director Sam Zarifi said.

This was not the first time the international group of judges addressed Duterte. In July, the ICJ urged the Philippine leader to counter the rising number of unlawful killings and not to let death penalty return.

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