Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has lauded four judges who were named Filipinos of the Year 2018 by the Philippine Daily Inquirer for their courage to uphold judicial independence despite the worsening culture of impunity in the country under Mr. Duterte.
De Lima, a lawyer by profession, said these four courageous judges serve as an inspiration to public sector workers to fulfill their mandate without allowing extraneous influence or pressure to get in the way of their job.
“The Philippine Daily Inquirer honored four courageous judges as Filipinos of the Year 2018. No accolade is more fitting for the ‘Fearless Four,'” De Lima said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 445.
“Patunay sila na sa gitna ng dilim at lagim ng kasalukuyang panahon at pamumuno ay may ningas pa rin ng pag-asa mula sa ilang nananatiling malalaya at matatapang na instrumento ng katarungan. Babala rin sila sa mga abusado at mapaniil. Inspirasyon naman sila sa iba pang mabubuting kawani ng pamahalaan,” she added.
Called as the “Fearless Four,” the Filipinos of the Year 2018 are Regional Trial Court Judges Rodolfo Azucena, Jr. of Caloocan City, Arlene Lirag Palabrica of Tagum City, Alexander Tamayo of Malolos City, and Andres Soriano of Makati City.
Citing their laudable work, De Lima recalled that Judge Azucena convicted three police officers for the murder of teen Kian delos Santos, while Judge Tamayo convicted former Major General Jovito Palparan and two subordinates for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.
She likewise noted that Judge Palabrica ordered the immediate release of the group of activists who were arrested by the military after bringing food and supplies to the beleaguered teachers and pupils in a “Lumad” school in Davao del Norte, while Judge Soriano denied the DOJ’s applications for arrest warrant and hold-departure order on Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.
The Lady Senator from Bicol reminded that a society can only call itself truly just and free if it has an independent judiciary – “which relies largely on the integrity, competence and uprightness of its judges.”
“On the freedom of the courts depends so much the exercise of our liberties. On the moral authority of the judiciary relies so much of the quality of justice that we pursue,” she said.
De Lima pointed out that judicial independence is not only a requirement for the maintenance of public order, but it also assures freedom to the individual, guarantees the right of determination and development of people, and safeguards against abuses by the different branches and functionaries of government.
“Sa isang malaya at matatag na hudikatura ay makakaasa ng patas na pagtrato ang lahat — maging ang mga magbubukid, manggagawa, katutubo, babae, kabataan, mahihirap, aktibista, kritiko at iba pang naisasantabi at inaapi,” she said.
De Lima praised the four judges for “striving to regain public confidence in our institutions” while the independent branches of government – including the judiciary – are slowly collapsing under the rule of a looming authoritarian who seeks to entrench himself in power.