Cebu lawyers seek more security

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Thursday, February 20, 2014


CEBU -- The fatal shooting of lawyer Noel Archival and two companions has heightened some Cebu-based lawyers’ concern for their safety in makeshift courtrooms set up in tents outside the Palace of Justice.

“We really need to beef up security,” said Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu City Chapter President Elaine Bathan.

Bathan said that the lawyers hope their concerns will be addressed by Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who will visit the makeshift courts tomorrow and meet with the group.

Police have yet to identify who attacked Archival’s group, but said they found video footage showing the vehicles used in the attack last Tuesday afternoon.

Chief Insp. Rico Emperwa said the footage showed three vehicles passing Barangay Coro, Dalaguete town around the same time the police received the call about the shooting.

A closed-circuit surveillance camera had been placed in the Poblacion area of Dalaguete. Emperwa, who spoke with GMA 7’s Balitang Bisdak, declined to reveal more, to protect their investigation.

Archival and three other men were in his Ford Escape, heading back to the city from a court hearing in Dumaguete, when they were ambushed in Barangay Coro, Dalaguete town last Tuesday afternoon. Police found 31 empty shells fired from a rifle.

A case conference was held in the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) yesterday, a day after unidentified persons shot and killed Archival, his driver Alejandro Jayme and aide Edu Miñoza.

Representatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Regional Investigation and Detective Management Group (RIDMB), PNP Crime Laboratory and the CPPO attended the conference.

Witnesses

Senior Insp. Renato Malazarte, spokesperson of the Task Force Investigation Group for Archival, said that at least one person witnessed the ambush and saw the vehicles used.

The police will check with the shipping company whose trip Archival boarded in Dumaguete City, to check if anyone was tailing the lawyer’s party.

Malazarte said that Paolo Cortes, the only one who survived the ambush, will be closely guarded by the police.

“We need him safe because basin makatabang siya sa investigation labi na kung nakakita gyud siya sa namusil (he might be able to help in the investigation, especially if he saw the gunmen),” said Malazarte.

Based on the autopsy by the PNP Crime Laboratory, Archival had four gunshot wounds, with a fatal shot in the head. The other two who died in the ambush, Miñoza and Jayme, both had fatal shots in the head.

Cortes was hit in his arm since he managed to hide inside the vehicle.

Breadwinner

Erlinda Jayme, Alejandro’s wife, said she learned of her husband’s death when she and her children watched the news on TV. She told a GMA 7 news team that she had always reminded her husband about how risky his job was. He was the family’s breadwinner.

“Unsaon na man lang ni sa among pamilya na siya (Alejandro) ra man ang nagtrabaho para namo? (How will my family survive now, when he was the only one working among us?),” lamented Erlinda.

Alejandro was declared dead on arrival in a Cebu City hospital.

The attack has heightened worries about the safety of lawyers, judges and court workers in Cebu, who have been unable to use most of the Palace of Justice, behind the Capitol building, since the earthquake last Oct. 15 damaged it.

Bathan said the lawyers are glad that Chief Justice Sereno will see them, after they passed three resolutions and a letter asking for the Supreme Court’s (SC) help.

SC officials, Bathan recalled, said in a meeting last month that it had allotted P36 million for the renovation of Quimonda IT Center in the North Reclamation Area in Cebu City, where the courtrooms may be transferred.

Always alert

Bathan said she has not yet received any progress report about the renovation budget.

But he building, she said, is not yet ready to house all of the 30 courts, and the first floor can accommodate only around 12 courts.

She said that some lawyers visited Quimonda last Tuesday and they noticed the third and fourth floors still had to be repaired.

But Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 8 Judge Macaundas Hadjirasul, the Palace of Justice’s security head, said they have always been alert after John Pope killed lawyer Jubian Achas and Dr. Rene Rafols inside a courtroom in January 2013.

He said they will transfer to Quimonda IT Center only if there is an order from the SC.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 20, 2014.

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