GET THE BAD GUYS

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol February 21,2018 - 10:56 PM

Lawyer Jonnah John Ungab’s brother Junald, mother Alma, wife Pearl, and nephew John Majed answer queries in a press conference inside the St. Peter’s Funeral Chapel in Cebu City where the slain lawyer’s body lies in state. (CDN PHOTO/BENJIE TALISIK)

A BEREAVED CHILD’S PLEA

“Arrest the bad guys or else the bad guys will kill again.”

This plea from Zee, the six-year-old daughter of slain lawyer Jonnah John Ungab, succinctly articulated the quest for justice of the Ungab family, even as law enforcers try to leave no stone unturned in pursuing those who have a hand in the crime.

The girl spoke of her wish when she briefly joined her mother Pearl and other members of the Ungab family who spoke to the Cebu media for the first time on Wednesday.

The family appealed to people to cast aside baseless insinuations and instead help them secure justice for a man who had nothing in mind except than to help and defend those who came to him for help.

Pearl said the tragic death of her husband left the family in pain, bewildered and distressed.

“We couldn’t find the words that would best describe what we are going through. It is not easy being in our situation when you are under public scrutiny, and anyone has a ready judgment just because my husband happened to handle a very sensitive case,” she said in a press conference at the St. Peter’s Memorial Chapel in Cebu City.

Also present were Ungab’s older brother Junald, mother Alma and nephew John Majed.

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who was in Cebu City yesterday to attend a couple of events, extended her condolences to Ungab’s family as she expressed concerns over the growing number of lawyers who had killed. (see separate story)

Just a lawyer

Contrary to some claims, Pearl said her husband, who was also the vice mayor of the southern Cebu town of Ronda, was never involved in the illegal drugs trade and simply served as legal counsel of those who sought his help, including some drug personalities.

“Is it a crime to help any person who ask for legal assistance and (to) exercise your expertise of the law? Is it his fault that he studied well and executed what God has bestowed on him to help someone in need? Is it his fault that he always gave his best in court and come out as a better lawyer than the other side? When does excellence in the performance of your duty to the community become a crime?” said the grieving widow in between sobs.

“It is in the performance of these duties to the public that he became the subject of the ire of some. It is in discharging his tasks as a legal counsel to his clients that made some other people decide to end his life out of selfish motives.”

Unknown to many, Pearl said her husband helped a lot of people and treated everyone with respect and kindness.

“You go to his office, ask for help, whether a case or something else that is already beyond his scope, you get a hundred percent dedication to serve you and give you excellent results to your satisfaction,” she said.

And if one had no means to pay him for the legal services he rendered, Pearl said Ungab would not ask for it.

There were times, she said, when clients who ran out of money just gave Ungab fish, chicken or any livestock as payment for his services.

“If you have been to his office, rich and poor alike, are treated the same way. They come with a problem and come out as persons being treated without prejudice and consideration to whatever financial status they have,” Pearl said.

Thus, she said, it was not surprising when people of high-profile cases approached Ungab for help.

“If you are this good, word comes around and you will have people coming to you for help, whether or not you can only hand in your fish, or your root crops. It didn’t matter what you give him in return, you would always get the result that you didn’t think was possible,” she said.

Threats

Pearl revealed that Ungab received threats, the last of which was sent through a text message, asking the lawyer to choose either his life or that of his client.

But Ungab refused to be cowed, said Pearl.

“He had no bodyguard, no guns, no protection of some sort. He knew that he didn’t need those because he was just a lawyer doing his job. Deep inside, he was just fulfilling his duties as a servant of the law. He didn’t steal, proliferate drugs, use drugs, and hurt anyone.”

Pearl appealed to those who have knowledge about the crime to come forward and help investigators in identifying the culprits.

“They (culprits) dastardly executed the plan to kill my husband — killed in a fashion that he didn’t deserve,” she said.

“Help us find those persons who think they can just murder someone who is exercising his duties to help his family. I sincerely pray to consider a man being robbed of his life just because he believed that everyone should be treated equally,” she added.

Pearl and Ungab have six children aged 20, 16, 12, 9, 6 and 2.

Forgiveness and justice

While it was painful to lose a loved one, Ungab’s mother, Alma, said she is willing to forgive the perpetrators.

“The barbaric crime was already done. So we just ask for justice. I forgive the doer but we need the cooperation of everybody to arrest the suspects. I believe God is with us. I believe justice will prevail,” she said.

Investigators are looking into three possible motives in the killing of Ungab: personal grudge, illegal drugs, and politics.

Politics?

Ungab’s older brother Junald requested investigators to seriously consider politics as a reason behind the killing.

He particularly cited a suspension order which he claimed is set to be released by the Sandiganbayan against Ronda Mayor Mariano Blanco III for violating the anti-graft law.

“When we took oath with PDP-Laban (Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan) last November 2017, he (Ungab) said he will run for mayor in 2019. We didn’t want to reveal it yet as there might be issues that will be raised against him. So, we made it appear that it’s our mommy who is set to run for mayor,” Junald said.

Junald did not elaborate as to why he mentioned the forthcoming suspension against Blanco as something investigators need to look into.

‘Absurd’

Sought for comment, Blanco, in a straightforward answer, said he had no hand in the slay of Ungab.

“I find his allegations absurd. Pamolitika ra na iyaha (That’s nothing but politics),” he said in a phone interview.

Blanco said he could not afford to kill someone whom he treated as his son.

“I am not threatened by Attorney Ungab’s (possible decision to challenge me in the elections). Pinangga kaayo nako si attorney (I cared for attorney very much). I was the one who built his political career since he first entered as councilor. I am not insecure,” he said.

“This is my last term as mayor. Why am I the one being blamed? His (Junald) argument is baseless. He simply lost the elections against me,” he added.

Ungab was Blanco’s running mate in Ronda town since 2010.

They first ran under the One-Cebu party of the Garcias but eventually transferred to the Liberal Party.

In 2016, Junald lost to Blanco in the mayoral race by a margin of 1,780 votes.

Last year, Blanco, along with five members of the town’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), were indicted by the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The issue stemmed from a complaint filed by Junald who accused them of failing to post at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) electronic bulletin board the invitation to bid for 15 of the 16 procurement projects from 2012 to 2013 that allegedly allowed the bidding process to be manipulated to favor certain suppliers and contractors.

While politics could be the motive in the killing of Ungab, Junald said other angles must also be looked into by law enforcers.

“My brother was instrumental in helping others attain justice. But on the day he was killed, no one helped him. It’s sad if we won’t be able to secure justice for him,” he said.

Interment and burial

Ungab’s body lies in state at the St. Peter’s Funeral Homes on Imus Street in Cebu City. It will be transported to Ronda on Saturday morning and shall stay at the Our Lady of Sorrows Parish until the Requiem Mass the following day.

Ungab will be laid to rest at a private cemetery in Ronda on Sunday.

Msgr. Ruben Labajo, team moderator of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, joined calls for justice to be served for Ungab, who was a former seminarian.

“Life has become less valuable nowadays. People should be reminded about the sanctity of life, that it is a gift from God, and no person has the right to take it away from others,” he said in a separate interview.

“The culture of death is prevailing. Let us unite to stop this evil culture. Sinner or not, it would not diminish the fact that every human being was created in the very image and likeness of God,” he added. with correspondent Morexette Marie B. Erram

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