Sereno on Ungab’s slay: It’s so sad, so horrific
Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has expressed concern over the number of lawyers who were killed in an ambush over the past years.
“I think everyone should be alarmed. For any country in the world, when killings are done brazenly, every citizen must ask where society is headed towards. Is this a breakdown that we are seeing?,” she said in a dialogue with law students at the Sacred Heart Center in Cebu City on Wednesday afternoon.
Sereno gave her reaction in response to queries on the death of Cebuano lawyer Jonnah John Ungab who was gunned down in broad daylight by a still unidentified assailant infront of the Cebu City Hall of Justice last Monday.
Ungab, the lawyer of self-confessed drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr., was the 10th lawyer killed in Cebu since 2004.
Sereno extended her condolences to Ungab’s family and hoped that the killing won’t stop other lawyers from carrying their roles in protecting their clients and making sure that justice is served.
The chief justice requested Executive Judge Gilbert Moises of the Regional Trial Court in Cebu City to provide the Supreme Court with a copy of the police report on Ungab’s slay so that proper actions can be taken to secure members of the judiciary.
“The slay of Atty. Ungab was a very horrible incident. It’s so sad; so horrific. Let me just express the sorrow of the judiciary that another lawyer’s life has been taken,” she said.
“No citizen, regardless of what he does for a living, should suffer such a fate he has, specially that he just came from a court hearing,” she added.
Sereno begged off from further discussing about Ungab’s slay as cases might soon be filed against the perpetrators.
“On the part of the judiciary, our role is to hear cases when they are filed before us. And until a justiciable case comes along, I cannot talk much about this particular killing,” she said.
Sereno said she is nonetheless coordinating with Moises to beef up the security at the Cebu City Hall of Justice.
“We will augment the security that we have. There is really a need to keep judges and lawyers safe. You cannot have lawyers who are not willing to practice in some areas because they are so afraid of suffering a horrible fate,” she said.
The National Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7) continues its investigation to identify and arrest the two assailants in the ambush-slay of Ungab.
NBI-7 Director Patricio Bernales appealed to those who saw the actual shooting or those who have knowledge about the crime to come forward and help the investigators so that justice will be achieved.
He said witnesses shall be placed under the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) which provides them with security escorts, livelihood assistance, and a safe house where they will stay while the case goes on.
“Of course, their safety is our priority. We can assure them of that,” Bernales explained.
Bernales said the NBI is closely coordinating with the police on the investigation.
Senior Insp. Jonathan Taneo, spokesperson of Task Force Ungab, said they also have yet to identify the assailant.
“We are still gathering significant evidence,” he said.
The police are looking into three possible motives in the slay of Ungab: personal grudge, politics, and illegal drugs.
Chief Supt. Robert Quenery, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), said they are willing to provide police escorts to the family of Ungab if they request for it. /with reports from Nestle L. Semilla
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