Women judges express alarm over their safety

The Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA) in Bicol has expressed alarmed over the safety of their members following the attempt on the life of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 56 Judge Jeanette Gaminde-San Joaquin on Oct. 20 in Puro Batia, Libmanan, Camarines Sur.

Judge Ave Zurbito-Alba, PWJA Bicol regional director, said that the slay try against San Joaquin, 46 and her personal secretary Rocelle Martinez caused a chilling effects among women judges in the region especially those handling sensitive cases. The PWJA Bicol has 30 members.

"The shooting incident against Judge Jeanette Gaminde-San Joaquin sent us a chilling effects as anything may happen to us. The public should know that we work and decide the cases on our sala based on the merit and evidences of the case presented by both parties (the accused and the accuser/s). So, we cannot avoid the facts that even though we decide based on the merit of the case some especially those who lost the case might be angry at us," Alba said.

The judges group issued a statement strongly condemning the slay try against their colleague and her secretary.

"This is the first time that a lady judge was victimized by shooting incident in Bicol though few years ago Judge Ricky Begino of Tigaon, Camarines Sur and president of Philippine Trial Judges League, Inc., was also a victim of a similar incident," Alba said.

To recall, Begino, 49, presiding judge of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) in San Jose and Lagonoy towns in Camarines Sur, was shot on his neck by Wilfredo Armea, 72, at his residence in 2018.

Armea went to Begino’s residence, opened the door and shot the judge on the neck.

Begino died as a result of the shooting. The motive of the killing was a land dispute on an eight-hectare farmland in Barangay Bicaben in the same town, which Armea claimed ownership.

Due to this, Alba asked the police to conduct a thorough and speedy investigation on the ambush incident and cause the arrest of the suspects “so that the rule of law will govern and justice be served upon them”.

Alba is a former chief of the Legal Affairs Division of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Internal Affairs in Bicol.

San Joaquin, on the other hand, is the acting vice executive judge in Camarines Sur. San Joaquin is reportedly handling sensitive cases in her sala.San Joaquin was appointed as a judge in 2019.

The lady judge and her aide were heading to Naga City when the unidentified riding in tandem suspects attacked the victims at around 2:30 PM. San Joaquin survived the slay try but her aide was in critical condition at the Bicol Medical Center in Naga City.

The attack against San Joaquin was strongly condemned by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Camarines Sur Chapter, PWJA Bicol chapter and Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta.

Peralta also ordered an immediate investigation on the shooting incident against the victims.