THE Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors on Tuesday condemned the killing in Cebu City of the lawyer of suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa whom he just got acquitted on illegal possession of firearms charges.
“The IBP condemns the brazen killing of lawyer Jonah John Ungab,” the lawyer’s group, in a statement signed by its president, Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, said.
Ungab was driving his car with his wife when waylaid by unknown assailants hours after attending a court hearing of Espinosa, the police said.
The case stems from a buy bust operation that took place in Barangay Duljo-Fatima, Cebu City in 2010. The police operation yielded packs of illegal drugs and a .45-caliber pistol owned by Espinosa.
Espinosa was then charged with violating Section 5 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and Illegal Possession of Firearms. In 2012, Espinosa was acquitted of the drug case.
Last Monday, Espinosa was also acquitted of the illegal gun possession case but was convicted of violating the gun ban under the Omnibus Election Code.
Aside from Espinosa, Ungab also served as lawyer of other controversial suspected criminals like alleged drug lord Alvaro “Barok” Alvaro and Chinese-Filipino businessman Kenneth Dong, who was tagged in a PhP6.4-billion shabu smuggling attempt at the Bureau of Customs last year.
According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer report, Ungab was earlier identified by Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, former chief of the Albuera police in Leyte, as among the alleged drug protectors of Espinosa, allegedly the biggest drug lord in Eastern Visayas. He was charged at the Regional State Prosecutor’s Office in Tacloban City but was eventually cleared for failure of the police to present sufficient evidence against him.
Meanwhile, the IBP, in its statement, explained that it “does not extol the lives of lawyers above anyone else because any other human life is equally sacred, and must not be treacherously snuffed out even for the most ardent of reasons.” However, it stressed that “the government exists precisely to maintain legal order, and to ensure that no person, regardless of his station in life, is deprived of his basic rights without due process of law.”
Which brings us to the truism that lawyers are indispensable in a functioning criminal justice system. Due process requires that all accused persons be represented by counsel, preferably of his own choice. Only a lawyer can assist the courts in sifting through the evidence and the applicable law, and help forge a ruling that is the best approximation of justice duly served, the IBP said.
“In this respect, the violent end to a lawyer’s life is doubly despairing. Atty. Ungab’s untimely demise is not only a grievous loss for his loved ones and his clients, it is also an affront of supreme irony to the rule of law and what remains of it in the current legal environment,” it added.
Earlier, the IBP also condemned the slaying attempt on another lawyer, Argel Joseph Cabatbat, in Quezon City last week. (Read More: http://beyonddeadlines.com/2018/02/14/ph-lawyers-group-asked-the-national-police-and-the-bureau-of-investigation-to-closely-look-into-the-foiled-ambush-slaying-of-a-lawyer-by-a-cop/)
Meanwhile, the IBP condoled with Ungab’s wife.
“We condole with Mrs. Ungab who had to witness the horrifying murder of her husband in broad daylight. We are thus making this call upon our authorities to solve this tragic killing only a week after we also bemoaned the unsuccessful ambush of another lawyer in Quezon City.”
It also said that “only by bringing the malefactors to justice can the authorities claim that they are being true to their mandate, and that they have not allowed hired killings to flourish as a cottage industry under their watch.”