WE, the Cebu for Human Rights (Cebu4HR) condemn the extra-judicial killing (EJK) of Cebu lawyer and Ronda Vice Mayor Jonnah John Ungab.
Atty. Ungab was shot by two unidentified persons around noon yesterday in front of the Cebu City Hall of Justice where he attended the hearing of his client, Kerwin Espinosa.
His killers were riding a motorcycle in tandem, the same modus operandi of other victims of EJK. Unlike the other EJK victims, he was a lawyer of an alleged drug lord.
The killing of Atty. Ungab, close to the Cebu City Hall of Justice, was meant to send a message to lawyers not to defend those accused of drug violations.
Some people think that Atty. Ungab’s death was justified because he was lawyering for an alleged drug lord. They condemn him for accepting money from an alleged drug lord and think that he directly benefited from the illegal drug trade. They say he was a marked man. Also, they think that lawyers are obstacles in stopping the drug trade because they would do everything to get their client out or acquitted. In the current situation where the government is waging a drug war, these people brand lawyers as drug lords, too.
Atty. Ungab did not deserve to die. He did not commit any crime by defending an alleged drug lord. He was just doing his job as a lawyer. Every person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. In an adversarial judicial system, the government prosecutes those accused of the crime. The accused is entitled to have a lawyer to defend him during the trial. It is during the trial that the truth is determined. It is the role of the judge to render judgment on whether or not the accused is guilty beyond doubt.
Our justice system is not perfect and there are loopholes which enable guilty men to go scot free. But adopting a different system where people are taking the law into their hands and killing people whom they think are guilty is dangerous to our society. In that case we may go back to the situation of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
Thus, it is the position of Cebu for Human Rights that Atty. Ungab’s killing is an attack against the legal profession and an attack against the judicial system, which is one of the pillars of a democracy. His killing is creating an atmosphere of fear in the legal community and has a chilling effect on lawyers, especially criminal lawyers.
We are awed, however, by the courage of many of the Cebu lawyers who have called to each other to unite and demand for justice for Atty. Ungab. We join them in condoling with his wife Pearl, their children and family for their loss.
We the Cebu for Human Rights join the call for justice and reiterate our demand for President Duterte to stop extra-judicial killings.
Let’s unite and overcome this latest threat to our human rights.--Atty. Democrito Barcenas, Atty. Lourdes Barcenas, Atty. Magdalena Lepiten, Atty. Fionah Bojos, Atty. Myrfi Gonzalez, Atty. Vincent Isles, Atty. Jay Pujanes, Mr. Bien Fernandez, Mr. Haley Atienza