Updated Mar 15, 2019, 12:34:58 AM
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 15) — Another lawyer was gunned down in Davao del Norte, bringing the total number of lawyers slain in the country since August 2016 to 38, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines said Thursday.
The latest victim is Rex Jasper Lopoz who was gunned down on March 13 in front of a shopping mall in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.
IBP President Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo said Lopoz' death marks the most recent in a quick succession of violent attacks against lawyers, and prosecutors.
"We are almost losing count, but there have been 38 such reported killings since Atty. Rogelio Bato, Jr. was killed by unidentified gunmen in Tacloban, Leyte on August 23, 2016," Fajardo said.
Bato was the lawyer of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, who had been accused as a drug personality in Leyte and was killed inside his jail cell.
Call for speedy, impartial probe
The IBP called on the police and investigative authorities to solve these cases "with a real sense of duty and competent dispatch."
The national organization of lawyers also renewed its call for the Supreme Court (SC) to initiate a thorough and impartial investigation into all the killings of Filipino lawyers.
There should be a dialogue, it explained, among SC, IBP, State security forces, and other relevant agencies in order for the parties to "engage in open and constructive discussion on ensuring the safety and security of lawyers."
"Lawyers, prosecutors, and judges are being targeted with surging frequency and impunity," Fajardo pointed out.
He explained Lopoz' death closely follows the assassination of Prosecutor Mary Ann Castro in Quezon City last January 17, 2019, and the abduction of lawyer Alwyn Mendoza in Nueva Ecija last February 23, 2019.
"Murder and other forms of mindless violence have no place in civilized society. Lawyers are professionals who must not be associate with the perceived crimes of their clients. We are sworn to advocate our clients' causes within the bounds of law, free from fear and intimidation, and regardless of our own opinions as to their guilt and innocence," Fajardo said.
Judges not spared
Philippine Judges Association President Judge Felix Reyes said in a span of three decades 29 judges have been killed - or one judge per year.
Based on available data, Reyes pointed out there are only five convictions, involving hitmen but no mastermind.