Lawyer protection program pushed amid spate of killings

By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio - CDN Digital Multi-Media Reporter | December 17,2020 - 05:12 PM

This is the bullet-riddled pickup truck that Lawyer Baby Maria Concepcion Landero-Ole drove when she was shot dead by unidentified assailants along the highway in Barangay Looc, Danao City at 2:50 p.m. today, December 17, 2020. CDN Digital | Paul Lauro

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Three lawyers were shot, in which two died, just months apart since October 2020, in separate cities in Metro Cebu.

And all three incidents happened in broad daylight.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) chapters in Cebu have expressed concern over the rampant killing of legal professionals in the province especially with the shooting of Lawyer Baby Maria Concepcion Landero-Ole in Danao City today, December 17, 2020.

Consequently, the IBP Cebu Province Chapter met with the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) and a high-profile lawyer and professor, Lawyer Amando Virgil Ligutan, on December 16, 2020, to discuss concrete actions to address this rash of killings.

Ligutan formulated an initiative that would provide a protection program for lawyers handling dangerous and sensitive cases and the threats to their lives that may come with it.

In an exclusive interview with CDN Digital, Ligutan said that he patterned the proposed program with the witness protection program that the Department of Justice (DOJ) offers to witnesses who may be subjected to threat for taking the stand on high profile cases.

High profile Cebuano Lawyer Amando Virgil Ligutan (left) explains the Lawyer Protection Program to Police Col. Aladdin Collado, the director of the Cebu Provincial Police Office. | Photo Courtesy of Atty Ligutan

Yet the lawyers handling these high profile cases are left vulnerable to the lawless elements who may want to harm them for handling the cases.

“Lawyers are vulnerable to assassination. Some lawyers do not have any idea on what to do when they receive death threats,” said Ligutan.

The Lawyer Protection Program will work with the police in conducting a rigid program should a lawyer receive threats and death threats from any individual especially pertaining to handled cases.

The program would start with a threat assessment by the police and the IBP so when a lawyer reports these threats, it can be assessed on its veracity and the best course of action to protect the lawyer.

If the threat is grave, the lawyer may be relocated to a safe house that IBP pre-determined through a contract until the imminent threat is clear.

Further assessments will be done as well, and should the lawyer need security, the police can provide personal security for at least three days.

After the three days, the IBP will help provide a private security team to the lawyer, of which the IBP will shoulder a portion of the expenses.

“This is to encourage lawyers to hire their own personal security. Per the investigation of the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and the police, before a lawyer is shot or killed, the assassin will take days, weeks, even months for surveillance. If there is a disruption in the routine, will find out police escorting, private securing, it might deter the assassin,” said Ligutan.

The project is still in its early stages, but IBP Cebu has revealed its plan to the public after the death of Lawyer Landero-Ole on Thursday afternoon.

“The forging of a memorandum of understanding between the CPPO and the IBP Cebu has all the more become imperative and urgent to ensure the security and protection of lawyers who are vanguards of justice,” said IBP Cebu in a statement.

Ligutan hopes this proposal will be realized soon as there is a clear imperative to protect lawyers amid the rampant killing of legal professionals in Cebu.

“Unfortunately, right now we are only being reactive as if we are waiting for the next victim. Something has to be done, we must be proactive. This program might save lives,” said Ligutan. /rcg

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TAGS: IBP, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Lawyer Amando Virgil Ligutan, lawyer ambushed in Danao City, Lawyer Baby Maria Concepcion Landero-Ole, Lawyer Protection Program, protection program for lawyers

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