Killing of prosecutors isolated cases - PNP

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 23) — Philippine National Police Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde considers the killings of prosecutors as isolated incidents even if the figures are on the rise.

"Ilan lang naman 'yan. Kung talagang ano 'yan, it will be all over. These are all isolated cases," he said on Wednesday.

Albayalde said their investigation shows most of the killings are work-related since prosecutors are tasked to pursue charges against crime suspects.

"Most of the time nakikita natin dito is work-related kasi. There are times na just like sa trabaho, kung ikaw ay pulis, talagang pinaghinalaan ka o marami ka nang nasagasaan, talagang kung minsan namemeligro buhay mo," he said.

Albayalde urged prosecutors to report death threats to the police so they can be provided with assistance or security.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra expressed alarm on the growing number of prosecutors killed under the Duterte administration.

On Tuesday, former Ozamiz City Prosecutor Geronimo Marabe Jr. was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. He is the second prosecutor to be killed this month after Quezon City Assistant City Prosecutor Rogelio Velasco was shot dead inside his vehicle while driving.

Seven prosecutors have been the targets of armed attacks since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in June 2016. Of this number, only one- Surigao City Prosecutor Manuel Tesiorna Jr. - survived.  However, he remains in the hospital, unable to move his lower body and cannot breathe without oxygen support.

Although saddened and alarmed by the succession of violence committed against prosecutors, Guevarra is still hopeful the killings will strengthen public prosecutors' resolve in going after lawless elements.

"Labis na ikinalulungkot at ikinababahala ng DOJ ang sunud-sunod na karahasan na ipinagbuwis ng buhay ng ilang prosecutors ng DOJ. Ngunit sa halip na ito ay magdulot ng takot sa hanay ng aming mga tauhan, ito ay magsisilbing hamon na higit pa naming paigtingin ang pag-usig sa mga masasamang-loob at mga salot sa ating lipunan," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Acting Prosecutor Jorge Catalan, meanwhile, pushed for arming prosecutors and teaching them self-defense.

"It is high time that a nationwide call to arm the NPS (National Prosecution Service) be made. That self-defense trainings and mechanisms be set in place to safeguard the very lives of these selfless public servants," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Albayalde expressed support, saying prosecutors can buy firearms for self defense and even ask the police to teach them how to shoot.

Guevarra had earlier expressed support for prosecutors getting firearms, but admits the Department of Justice lacks the budget to provide them with bulletproof vehicles or body armor.

"I will support prosecutors getting firearms for self-defense. I wish we could [supply them] with bullet-proof vehicles to boot, but we have to live within our means and just do our job well," he said.

"For now we can only wear breastplate of righteousness and the full armor of god," he added.