Philippines: Murder of Judge Jude Erwin Alaba | Letter

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Atty. Leila De Lima
Secretary, Department of Justice Padre Faura St., Manila

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Dear Madame De Lima,

Re: Murder of Judge Jude Erwin Alaba

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) would like to draw your urgent attention on the killing of Judge Jude Erwin Alaba on September 1, 2015.

According to our information the killing took place during daytime, around 1 PM, just before Judge Alaba and his wife arrived at the Baler Regional Trial Court. Judge Alaba was shot, and his wife was wounded and taken to a hospital. Several people saw the murder taking place.

Shortly after the murder the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court urged the authorities to take all necessary steps to resolve this crime. According to Chief Inspector Jun Dela Cruz, Judge Alaba had presided over several convictions that might have angered some people. Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez declared that Judge Alaba had dealt with sensitive drug cases and some controversial land dispute cases. On the day of the murder, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), stated that, in a particularly sensitive case, Judge Alaba acquitted an alleged leader of the New People’s Army (NPA), Delfin Pimentel, of a multiple murder charge, and afterwards dismissed charges of illegal possession of firearms against Pimentel and his wife Imelda. Public authorities confirmed one week later that Judge Alaba had dealt with these cases.

The killing of a judge is a very serious matter, especially when there are indications that the murder may have been in reprisal for the judge’s work. Indications that the latter is the case are the place of the murder, and the very sensitive cases Judge Alaba had dealt with.

As recognized by the Basic Principles on the Independence of Judges, “judges are charged with the ultimate decision over life, freedoms, rights, duties and property of citizens” It is widely accepted that to ensure the independence of judges, states must adopt and maintain effective measures to ensure the safety of judges and their freedom to carry out judicial duties free from reprisals. Sadly Judge Alba was not protected. It is essential that the Government of the Philippines at this juncture, take all steps necessary to ensure a thorough, competent and timely investigation of the murder to indentify suspect(s) and enable prosecutions to determine the perpetrator(s) and the punishment required by law.

To fulfill the requirements of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 1, 2 and 7, ratified by the Philippines 23 January 1987, and the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, the investigation of Judge Alaba’s murder must:

1. be conducted by investigators independent from state agents with alleged criminal involvement;

2. lead to the identification and prosecution of suspects;

3. ensure that investigators take reasonable steps to secure evidence including eyewitness testimony, forensic evidence, objective analyses of clinical findings and conduct an autopsy that provides an accurate record of the injuries;

4. be prompt and reasonably expeditious;

5. afford sufficient public scrutiny of the investigation and the results to secure accountability; and

6. afford to Judge Alaba’s next-of-kin whatever involvement in the process is necessary to safeguard their interests and ensure the remedies to which they are entitled.

We request that you inform us if measures will be taken to prevent such crimes against judges, and if the progress made with regard the the investigation and remediation of this murder.

We thank you for your attention in this very important matter. Sincerely,

Gail Davidson, LRWC Executive Director