Sunday, February 12, 2017

How Duterte's deadly war on drugs kills the Philippine criminal justice system.

The problem when private defense lawyers boycott or refuse to defend accused in pending drug cases is that the trial judges would have no choice but to appoint the public attorneys from the local offices of the Public Attorneys Office (PAO) assigned to their branches or the free legal aid lawyers of the nearest chapters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to take over the defense of the accused. (The IBP Surigao Chapter has resolved to withdraw from all drug cases our of fear for their lives).

The PAO lawyers, who are overloaded with pro bono civil and criminal cases for indigent Filipinos, are under the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The public prosecutors who try the cases for and in behalf of the State are under the DOJ.

The DOJ, in turn, is headed by Aguirre, an alter ego of Duterte in re: justice-related issues.

We thus have an unethical, unfair, improper and incongruous situation where the presidential alter ego of Duterte at the DOJ central office, i.e., Aguirre, controls both the public prosecutors and the public (defense) attorneys participating in the litigations of drug cases.

Hence, when private defense lawyers withdraw from litigating drug cases for and in behalf of their clients (accused) for fear of liquidation by rogue/scalawag policemen and/or their vigilantes pursuant to Duterte's deadly war on drugs, the ultimate victim of such a situation is the Philippine criminal justice system, the fate, stability, trustworthiness and dependability of which are thereby placed in grave jeopardy.

History shows that in all states where brutal, deadly, repressive and well-funded state-sponsored wars on drugs have been launched the judges, public prosecutors, defense lawyers, law enforcement personnel, and other officials participating in the criminal justice systems of such states had been corrupted and weakened, if not totally destroyed, by both warring sides.

In a sense, it may be said that Duterte's deadly and violent war on drugs kills not only drug "suspects" but more importantly the entire Philippine criminal justice system.

The last fortress of hope is the independence of the Judiciary under the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, during the term of office of Duterte, he would be appointing twelve new SC justices, who would surely be chosen from the ranks of jurists and lawyers who are identified with and supportive of the totalitarian beliefs of the appointing power.

Further, within the next two years, Duterte would appoint the new Ombudsman, who has original and exclusive jurisdiction over crimes committed by public officials and employees under the control of Duterte. It is expected that the new Ombudsman would be chosen from the ranks of jurists and lawyers whose worldviews coincide with the mind of the appointing power.

Even if Duterte does not declare a revolutionary government, which has been his announced ambition since the campaign days in 2015, it is clear that he would substantially be in full control of the three co-equal/independent branches of the government (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary) during his term of office, thus, making him a de facto totalitarian leader for the next six years.

God save Philippine Democracy!

Lawyers in Surigao del Norte province will keep their hands off drug-related cases after two of their colleagues were attacked by gunmen in Surigao City recently.