cdn mobile


By: Ador Vincent Mayol February 20,2018 - 11:01 PM

The body of slain lawyer Jonnah John Ungab lies in state at the St. Peter’s Memorial Chapel on Imus Road, Cebu City. In a February 6 photo (inset), Ungab (left) posed for a photograph with Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido (inset, right), former chief of the Albuera police in Leyte and current director of the Ozamiz City police, after a hearing on a drug case filed against self-confessed drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr. at a Manila court.

Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido happy over the death of lawyer Jonnah John Ungab and accused him of being Kerwin Espinosa’s partner in illegal drugs.

As cries for justice reverberate, one man openly expressed elation over the slay of Cebuano lawyer Jonnah John Ungab.

“Sa tinud-anay lang, nalipay ko. Dili ko plastic. Kanang nahitabo niya (Ungab), that is the consequence sa iyang binuhatan. Singilon man gyud ta,” Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, director of the Ozamiz City police, told Cebu Daily News over the phone on Tuesday.

(To be honest, I am happy. I am not a hypocrite. What happened to Ungab was the consequence of his actions. There’s always payback time.)

In a strongly worded statement, Espenido tagged Ungab as involved in the illegal drugs trade, calling the prominent lawyer a “partner” of self-confessed drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr. — Eastern Visayas’ alleged biggest drug personality.

“He (Ungab) was not just a lawyer of Kerwin Espinosa. He was really a partner of Kerwin Espinosa in the drug syndicate,” he said.

“Kon involved ka sa illegal drugs, may paglalagyan ka talaga. That’s the consequence sa imong gihimo nga sala sa tawo.” (If you are involved in illegal drugs, you will really meet your fate. That is the consequence of the sins you commit to people.)

Ungab was Espinosa’s second lawyer ambushed by unidentified gunmen. On Aug. 23, 2016, another lawyer of Espinosa, Rogelio Bato Jr., was shot dead by unidentified men in Leyte.

Aside from Bato and Ungab, Espenido said Kerwin still has two other lawyers who were allegedly involved in the narcotics trade. He refused to identify them.


In October 2016, Espenido, who was then the police chief of Albuera town where Kerwin was based, filed criminal complaints against Ungab at the Regional State Prosecutor’s Office in Tacloban City accusing the lawyer of involvement in the illegal drugs trade.

He said Kerwin’s father, slain Albuera town Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., and two other witnesses tagged Ungab as among those who were part of the illegal drug group.

Espenido’s accusations, however, were belied by Kerwin when the latter appeared before the Senate during a drug probe.

State lawyers also dismissed the case filed by Espenido against Ungab for his failure to present sufficient evidence against the lawyer.

Espenido said there was nothing he could do since Kerwin himself opposed the testimonies of his father, Mayor Espinosa, who was killed by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG-8) in what they said was a shootout inside the Sub-Provincial Jail in Baybay City, Leyte, in November 2016.

‘He was innocent’

Sought for comment, Ungab’s nephew Jed Ungab, who also was the designated spokesperson of the family, said the dismissal of the case against the lawyer was enough to prove that the latter was not involved in illegal drugs, contrary to Espenido’s claims.

“The client (Kerwin) was under oath when he made a statement that his relationship with Ungab was purely professional; a lawyer-client thing so to speak. That speaks volumes of what their relationship was,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Jed said people should understand that lawyers simply defend their clients as best they could under the law, and that they should not be dragged into whatever activities the persons they represent are accused of.

“It’s unfair for lawyers to be placed in a situation wherein they are threatened not to do their jobs. In the first place, lawyers have the sworn duty to protect their clients,” said Jed, a law student.

Cry for justice

Ungab’s family has appealed to authorities to identify and arrest the assailants as well as the mastermind behind the killing of the lawyer.

“We demand justice. We’re very angry and sad. We’re trying to hold ourselves together as we try to be each other’s support system,” said Jed.

He appealed to those who saw the actual shooting incident to come into the open and help authorities go after the suspects.

“Your testimonies will surely help us as we build up a case against the culprits,” he said.

Ungab, the lawyer of self-confessed drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr., was killed in an ambush while driving his car in front of the Cebu City Hall of Justice at 11:50 a.m. on Monday.

Ungab, also the vice mayor of Ronda town in southern Cebu, was rushed to a hospital but died after two hours from two gunshot wounds in the head.
He was with his wife, Pearl, when the incident happened. Pearl was unharmed.

Less than two hours before the crime, Ungab attended three court proceedings, including the promulgation of Espinosa at Regional Trial Court Branch 23 where the accused was convicted of violating the election gun ban as he was caught carrying two firearms in 2010. He was, however, acquitted of illegal possession of firearms.

Joint investigation

Jed said the family has requested the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to step in and help the police in the investigation.

“Two heads are better than one. Why not get the help of the two agencies? We want the speedy administration of justice. That’s what we seek,” he said.

Agents of the NBI-7 talked to Ungab’s wife on Tuesday at the St. Peter’s Memorial Chapel along Imus Street in Cebu City where the lawyer’s body lies in state.

NBI-7 Director Patricio Bernales said they will do everything they can to help the Ungab family secure justice.

“We will closely coordinate with the police in the investigation,” he said.

Ungab’s body was autopsied by NBI-7 medico legal officer, Dr. Rene Cam, on Monday evening.

Of the two gunshot wounds on Ungab’s head, Cam said one was fatal.


Based on the footage of a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera from one of the establishments near the crime scene, the assailant waited for Ungab’s vehicle to pass by the Port Service Road in front of the Cebu City Hall of Justice, said Supt. Ryan Devaras, chief of Cebu City Investigation and Detective Management Branch.

When Ungab’s car slowed down to turn right from the Port Service Road to S. Osmeña Road, the assailant casually walked by the car and fired twice at the lawyer.
Ungab’s car accelerated out of control, rammed into a taxi, before stopping in front of Sugbutel Family Hotel.

The assailant, who appeared to be tall and of medium build, boarded a get-away motorcycle driven by another person and sped away towards the north.

Devaras said they were investigating all possible motives into the killing of Ungab.

“Please give us time. We just could not do the investigation hastily. For every crime that happened in Cebu City, we make it a point to solve it,” he said.
Devaras, however, said Ungab’s family has been hesitant in giving them information.

“We understand because they are still in the state of shock. We’re waiting for them to coordinate with us,” he said.

CHR-7 joins probe

Aside from the law enforcement agencies, the Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR) also decided to conduct a probe into Ungab’s death.

“We’re doing this, not because Atty. Ungab was a government official, but because we were mandated by our higher ups to investigate all killings related to illegal drugs,” said CHR-7 Director Arvin Odron in an interview.

Although Ungab was not directly linked to the illegal drugs trade, Odron said he was linked to Espinosa who was considered by the police as the biggest drug lord in Eastern Visayas.

Ungab also served as lawyer of suspected Danao City-based drug lord Alvaro “Barok” Alvaro and Chinese-Filipino businessman Kenneth Dong, who was tagged in the P6.4-billion shabu shipment confiscated by the Bureau of Customs last year.

Drug war

The killing of Ungab came exactly a week after President Rodrigo Duterte announced, during his visit in Cebu, that there will be persons linked to the illegal drugs trade, who shall bite the dust.

“Ang Cebu ha, I am warning — it’s the highest — one of the highest trade sa contamination hasta ang pulis diri. Sa exams, Cebu remains to be a problem sa drugs. Di na ako masiguro og kinsa gyud pero one of these days naa gyuy matumba,” the country’s top executive said in a speech delivered during the unveiling of the Malasakit Center marker at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City.

But Supt. Devaras was quick to downplay insinuations that Ungab’s killing was among those alluded to by President Duterte.

“We just need to investigate (to uncover the mystery behind Ungab’s death),” he said.

He also brushed aside claims that policemen were behind the slay of Ungab.

“It’s not fair to blame the police just because (the killing was done professionally). There are many individuals, who are not policemen, who are good in shooting. You don’t have to be a policeman to fire gunshots well and hit the target,” Devaras said.

No fear

But if he were to decide, Chief Insp. Espenido said it is better to get rid of all those involved in the illegal drugs trade, either by making arrests or through death.

“Ikalipay nako nga mangamatay ni silang tanan although nagsige ta og panakop nga buhi aron pag-prove nga pro-life ta. (I will be happy if all those who are into the illegal drugs trade will die although we continue to arrest some of them alive to prove that we are pro-life),” he said.

Espenido said there is nothing wrong if a person simply serve as lawyer of a drug personality. But if he or she is already involved in the illegal drugs trade, Espenido said it’s already a different story.

He said he will continue to go after drug personalities whatever it takes.

“Mobarog ta alang sa maayo. Kon kini silang ania sa droga isog, kita pa kaha nga nagpuyo sa maayo? (We must stand up for what is good. If those into illegal drugs are brave, how much more we who are doing good?),” Espenido said. /With Nestle L. Semilla, and Morexette Marie B. Erram

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of Cebudailynews. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

TAGS: Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, happy, illegal drugs, Kerwin Espinosa, partner

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.