Son of slain judge: This regime took my father


BAGUIO CITY — The son of murdered Regional Trial Court Judge Mario Anacleto Bañez took his view on the killing of his father on Facebook as more groups condemn the incident.

“I will not mince words. In the pursuit of justice, my father was murdered. Assassinated. Evil men took away life from someone who deserved to live for as long as he could,” said Darryl Lance, in a post day after the incident.

He expressed the grief of their family and friends, noting that they are aware of the risks that come with his father’s work, “but the pain remains potent.”

The younger Bañez said the killing of his father “is larger than our own suffering,” noting that his dad was the 6th judge and 43rd person of the law “killed under this regime that sows terror to those who believe in justice.”

“I grieve not only because he was my father with whom I grew up admiring his integrity, but also because I feel that the State, this regime, took my father from me,” he said.

Shooters ambushed and killed the magistrate while on his way home late afternoon on November 5 in Barangay Mameltac, San Fernando City, La Union. His car, a Hyundai Accent, overturned when he stepped on the accelerator according to the police. He was brought to Bethany Hospital, where physicians declared him dead on arrival.

JUSTICE FOR THE JUDGE. Tagudin mayor Roque Verzosa, Jr., led the mass to honor and the slain magistrate yesterday, November 7 at the municipal auditorium. Photo from LGU Tagudin FB page

Killing condemned

The killing of Bañez drew widespread condemnation from different groups.

“We are shocked. We are outraged beyond words. We condemn this senseless act. We call on the authorities to be swift and thorough in their investigation in order to apprehend the perpetrators,” said the Integrated Bar of the Philippines La Union in a Facebook post.

HUKOM, Inc. attributed the murder of Bañez as “fostered by the climate of violence and impunity.”

“While we continue to condemn these killings, the more important task now is for all stakeholders of the justice sector… to push for meaningful reforms in all institutions involved in the delivery of justice to everyone,” the group said in a statement.

The regional office of the Commission on Human Rights in Ilocos also slammed the “dastardly and senseless killing.” The office urged law enforcement units to “conduct a thorough investigation.” They also appealed to witnesses to “come out and help in the early resolution of the case.”  

“The CHR for its part will be conducting a parallel investigation of this latest extrajudicial killing in this Province as no cause can justify such brutality,” said Atty. Harold Kub-aron, regional director of CHR-1.

The town of Tagudin made public its condemnation of the incident through its community billboard. Officials of the town also ordered the judicial building and town hall draped with black cloth to express grief and sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Bañez. RTC Branch 25, where Bañez presided, is located in the municipality.  

Warning for the judiciary

National human rights alliance, Karapatan, also condemned the incident, saying that “those that they cannot co-opt, they kill.” They believe the killing of Bañez was a warning to members of the judiciary.

“The cold-blooded murder of Judge Bañez comes after Major General Antonio Parlade Jr. urged the Supreme Court to ‘investigate’ judges who dismissed cases filed by state forces against activists,” said Roneo Clamor, Karapatan Deputy Secretary-General.

According to him, “the horrible murder as an act of reprisal for Judge Bañez’s decision in standing up for truth and justice against the military’s blatant lies.”

“As Karapatan expressed its outrage on the killing of Judge Bañez, we likewise condole with the victim’s family. We join the call for justice and accountability amid continuing attacks against the people’s democratic rights,” he added.

Just this September, the judge acquitted Rachel Mariano, a community health worker and activist from Baguio City of trumped-up murder and frustrated murder charges. Military from the 81st Infantry Batallion based in Ilocos Sur accused Mariano of participating in an ambush in October 2017 by communist guerillas. The attack happened in Brgy. Patiacan, Quirino, Ilocos Sur resulting in the death of a soldier and wounding of another.

Institute marshal service

With the death of another magistrate, the Supreme Court raised the need to create a law enforcement arm for the judiciary, similar to the Marshal Service of the United States.

SC Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said he would seek the support of Congress to legislate law for such agency.

HUKOM, Inc. supports this idea. The group said they (judges) “support the renewed interest in our new Chief Justice for the establishment of marshal services for members of the bench.”

The chief magistrate and Hukom, Inc. envision the new law enforcement body to protect members of the judiciary, implementation of orders from the court, and custodian for evidence.

Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office 1 formed a task force to look into the murder of Bañez. The police said that they are looking at work-related motives and have already obtained copies of CCTV footage in the area where the ambush happened. # / With reports from Monica Cutin / Featured image from LGU Tagudin Facebook