Bring perpetrators to justice, lawyers urge

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol February 19,2018 - 11:30 PM

Lawyer Jonnah John Ungab is carried on a stretcher after he was ambushed by still unidentified gunmen near the Hall of Justice after attending hearings.

Two lawyers’ groups in Cebu City have condemned the killing of prominent lawyer Jonnah John Ungab and called on authorities to identify and arrest the assailants and those behind the killing.

Lawyer Mundlyn Misal-Martin, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu Province Chapter, said acts of violence against lawyers have no place in a civil society.

“As lawyers, we are only doing our job as mandated by the law and as our personal commitment to our clients. We hope that society will understand our importance and our specific roles,” she said in a statement.

“I pray for him and I hope God will keep him safe in His arms. Please be safe my fellow lawyers. You are always in my prayers,” she added.
Martin urged law enforcers to do their best to secure justice for Ungab.

“I hope the police will look deeply into this case so that it won’t end up like other unsolved cases,” she said.

The IBP Cebu City Chapter also issued a statement, saying the continuous threats on the lives of lawyers, judges, and officers of the court have become “alarming.” “Creating an atmosphere of fear amongst the members of the legal profession will impede not only the personal cases of his or her clients, but the speed and efficiency of the administration of justice as a whole,” the statement read.

“More than personal advocates, a lawyer is an officer of the court, and is an important cog that helps in the turning of the wheels of justice,” it added.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) Cebu Chapter shared the same sentiments.

“We urge the authorities to immediately conduct a full and impartial investigation into Atty. Ungab’s killing and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice. Failure to do so will only embolden murderers under a pervasive culture of impunity that knows no power of the rule of law,” said NUPL in a statement posted on the Facebook account of its interim President Ian Vincent Manticajon.

The Cebu for Human Rights (C4HR), a group organized by lawyers, also denounced the killing of Ungab which they said was meant to send a message to lawyers not to defend those accused of drug violations.

“Atty. Ungab did not deserve to die. He did not commit any crime by defending an alleged drug lord. He was just doing his job as a lawyer. Every person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.”

The C4HR said Ungab was one of the around 200 lawyers who had signed a petition against extra-judicial killing sometime July 30, 2016.

“Extrajudicial killings have no place in a democracy that gives to the courts the sole power to adjudge guilt and mete out punishment …”

Since 2004, nine other lawyers in Cebu have been brutally killed.

In December 2016, lawyers Goering George Paderanga, Sr. and his son Gerik Caesare Paderanga were shot dead by a security guard following a disagreement on the use of a narrow road in F. Ramos Street in Barangay Sta. Cruz, Cebu City on December 22, 2016.

The security guard, who earlier admitted to killing the two lawyers, was arrested and is facing double murder charges in court.

In August 2015, lawyer Amelie Alegre and her law associate, Briccio Joseph Boholst, were shot by two unidentified men on board a motorcycle while inside Boholst’s car in Mandaue City.

Alegre died on the spot due to multiple gunshot wounds on the body. Boholst was hit on the left leg while their accountant Antonio Pino was hit in the stomach. Boholst and Pino survived.

The perpetrators have not been identified to date.

In February 2015, lawyer Noel Archival was ambushed along with his three companions in Dalaguete town in southern Cebu. At least three officers of the Highway Patrol Group were charged in court but they remain at large.

In 2013, lawyer Jubian Achas was killed by a disgruntled litigant in one of the courtrooms at the Cebu Palace of Justice along with his client Dr. Rene Rafols.

The attack carried out by a Canadian expat John Pope, also seriously injured lady prosecutor Maria Theresa Calibugan-Casiño.

In 2010, former Regional State Prosecutor Hernando Masangkay was killed inside his residence in Talisay City. Charges were filed against a 17-year-old boy who was accused of killing Masangkay.

In 2009, public prosecutor Patrick Ian Osorio was killed in an ambush in Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City. The two perpetrators were convicted by the trial court.

In 2008, lawyer Richard William Sison was shot dead at around noon in Cebu City. Nemuel Sumabong, a security guard, was convicted of his murder in 2012.

Also on that grim list of lawyers claimed by a hail of bullets was female lawyer Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco who was shot inside her residence in Cebu City in 2004. Yongco prosecuted the parricide case against cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. who was accused of killing his wife Alona Bacolod-Ecleo.

The alleged assassin, Michael Favila, a member of Ecleo’s cult, was arrested but he died from complications to diabetes in 2009.

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