(UPDATED) The Supreme Court (SC) committee on human rights on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, asked the police and other organizations to submit their reports and findings on the killing of Cebuano lawyer Rex JMA Fernandez by the end of September 2021.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who chairs the committee, said these will be among the records and reports that the committee will analyze to determine whether there are patterns in the killing of lawyers.

Fernandez was the first lawyer in Cebu who was killed after the SC, in a rare move on March 23, 2021, issued a statement seeking relevant and vetted information on each and every threat against or killing of a lawyer or judge within the past 10 years.

The collation of such information is among the five courses of action that the court said it was taking to determine what changes need to be made to address the assault on the judiciary.

In his statement Friday, Leonen said the committee’s findings will form the basis for a “strategic response” that will be proposed for action of the court en banc.

“The killing of any lawyer is of serious concern to all of us. Violence solves nothing. It is anathema to the rule of law,” Leonen said, quoting the court en banc.

Fernandez was gunned down in a daylight attack in Banawa, Cebu City on Aug. 26.

He was on the front passenger seat of his car, which had slowed down as it emerged from Good Shepherd Road, when the gunman walked toward the car and fired multiple shots through the passenger side window. The gunman then briskly walked away and hopped on a motorcyle driven by an accomplice.

Fernandez was the eighth lawyer slain in Cebu since July 1, 2016, according to the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL). Nationwide, 57 lawyers, prosecutors and judges have been killed in the same period.

In its March 2021 statement, the SC said it had requested the lower courts, public interest organizations, lawyers and judges to provide vetted information on each killing or threat.

"Based on the information provided, the court will then decide on the next courses of action, including the amendment of the relevant rules, or if necessary, the creation of new ones," the SC stated.

Other courses of action were: promulgation of rules on the use of body cameras by the police during the service of search and arrest warrants; investigation into the red-tagging of a judge and conduct of a survey among trial court and Shari'a judges on the threats against them; referral of all letters about specific incidents to the trial courts for conversion into "proper remedies," such as writs of amparo or habeas data; and coordination with civil society or law enforcement.

The court also encouraged all lawyers who experienced harassment to file the necessary motions so the courts may receive the evidence, determine the facts and, based on the issues framed, provide the relevant reliefs

Other lawyers and prosecutors killed in Cebu since 2016 were father and son Goering and Gerik Paderanga (2016), Jonah John Ungab (2018), Salvador Solima (2018), Mary Ann Castro (2019), Joey Luis Wee (2020) and Baby Maria Concepcion Landero-Ole (2020). (Marites Villamor-Ilano / SunStar Philippines)