Who was Jonnah John Ungab?
A former seminarian who became a family man, lawyer, professor, and a triathlete, Jonnah John Ungab had wanted to maintain a low profile.
But circumstances, including the prominent cases he handled, had turned his seemingly quiet life into a circus.
The soft-spoken lawyer counted confessed drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr. and the latter’s father, the slain Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. as among his clients, which led him to be tagged as “drug protector” by Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, then chief of the Albuera police.
Ungab, even as he insisted his relationship with the Espinosas was purely professional, was subsequently charged at the Regional State Prosecutor’s Office in Tacloban City in October 2016, a charge eventually dismissed for lack of sufficient basis.
Ungab also served as counsel of suspected Danao City-based drug lord Alvaro “Barok” Alvaro, and controversial businessman Kenneth Dong who was tagged in the P6.4-billion shabu shipment confiscated by the Bureau of Customs last year.
These cases became appended to the name of Ungab, with the public sometimes forgetting that he was also the vice mayor of Cebu’s southern town of Ronda.
Ungab comes from a political family in Ronda, 81 kilometers southwest of Cebu City. He was first elected municipal councilor in 2004 and served for two more terms.
In 2010, he was elected vice mayor under One Cebu-Lakas-Kampi-CMD, while his uncle, Mariano Blanco III, was the mayor.
He later became President of the Vice Mayors League of the Philippines (VMLP) in Central Visayas.
Ungab studied high school at the St. John XXIII Seminary in Mabolo, Cebu City, and went on to study at the San Carlos Seminary College for two years before he decided to step out of the seminary to pursue other fields.
Ungab met Pearl while she was working in a hotel in uptown Cebu City. They got married in the late 1990s and have six children.
Although he was already married and had a son, and came from a rich family, Ungab continued to work in a hotel and studied law at Southwestern University.
Ungab graduated in 2000 and passed the bar exams the next year with a rating of 81.1 percent.
In 2002, he decided to teach law. He was also president of the family-owned Ultimate Visa Corp. and proprietor of All About Spice Catering. He and another lawyer founded a law firm, which specializes on immigration as well as criminal and civil cases.
As part of dealing with the stress, Ungab participated in various triathlon events, including the annual Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines in Cebu.
In February 2015, Ungab got entangled in a domestic squabble that resulted from a catfight between his wife Pearl and lawyer Jiecel Tiu.
Pearl attacked Tiu with a baseball bat at the parking area of Centro Maximo Building on Ranudo and Jakosalem Streets in Cebu City. Tiu claimed that Pearl’s Navara pickup bumped her car, and that Pearl smashed the windows of her car and hit her with a baseball bat.
Pearl alleged that she hit Tiu’s car after the lawyer attacked her with pepper spray and bumped her and her 2-year-old daughter at the parking lot.
The scandal led to the discovery of a complaint filed by a former student of Ungab who accused him of sexual harassment in 2013 and fathering her one-year-old son. The case was eventually dismissed by the prosecutor’s office for insufficiency of evidence.
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