Published 11 July 2022, The Daily Tribune

“For how can justice be served if the dispensers of justice, themselves, have become targets and victims of crimes?” — so asked the Philippine Judges Association (PJA) relative to the killing of a judge in Ilocos Sur in 2019.

With the numerous unresolved killings of the members of the Judiciary in the past two decades, the need for judicial marshals who will serve as the main law enforcement arm of the Supreme Court became imperative.

Thus, to ensure the safety and security of the members of the Judiciary, judicial personnel and court assets, Republic Act (RA) 11691 (An Act Creating the Office of the Judiciary Marshals, Defining its Powers and Functions, and Appropriating Funds Therefor) was passed into law last 8 April 2022.

Through RA 11691, the Office of the Judiciary Marshals will be created. This will be under the control and supervision of the Supreme Court, through the Office of the Court Administrator.

The Office of the Judiciary Marshals will be headed by a Chief Marshal assisted by three Deputy Marshals who shall be respectively in charge of, assigned and stationed in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Among the powers, functions and responsibilities of the Office of the Judiciary Marshals, it is interesting to note that it can issue subpoenas for the appearance of any person for investigation, apply for search warrants before any court of law, and file complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice, or city or provincial prosecutors, as may be directed by the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, or the Court Administrator.

Further, the Office of the Judiciary Marshals can make arrests and conduct searches and seizures in relation to its functions and in accordance with the Constitution, existing laws, jurisprudence and rules.

As to possession of firearms, the Chief Marshal is authorized to issue permits to carry duly licensed firearms outside residence to the officials and personnel of the Office of the Judiciary Marshals for their personal safety and protection in connection with their duties and responsibilities.

Notwithstanding all the powers granted to the Office of the Judiciary Marshals, and the latter’s concurrent jurisdiction with other law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes and other offenses committed against justices, judges, court officials and personnel, including their families, and halls of justice, courthouses, and other court properties, the Office of the Judiciary Marshals can still request assistance from and coordinate with the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation and law enforcement agencies in connection with the performance of its functions and duties.

Let me end with a quote from Chief Justice of the Supreme Court himself, Hon. Alexander G. Gesmundo, “To threaten our judges and our lawyers is no less than an assault on the Judiciary. To assault the Judiciary is to shake the very bedrock on which the rule of law stands.”

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