Seares: Ungab murder: lawyer as state’s foe

PICK out as possible motive in the ambush shooting to death of Ronda Vice Mayor Jonnah john Ungab yesterday past 11 a.m. as he was driving along Serging Osmea St. at the Cebu City north reclamation area:

● The incident on Feb. 28, 2015 in which Jonnah John’s wife struck with a bat the car of his alleged mistress, another lawyer, which landed in news headlines because it happened at a public place in the city and the lawyer sued for frustrated murder (downgraded by prosecutors to physical injuries).

● The March 2015 dismissal of a sexual harassment complaint filed by a woman against her former law teacher Jonnah John for lack of evidence.

● Jonnah John’s lawyering for the Espinosa clan in Leyte, prominent members of whom figured in the Duterte government’s battle against illegal drugs: the father, Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., was killed in November 2016 in the Baybay jail where he was detained on charges of drug trafficking; the son Richard Kerwin was Jonah John’s client in an illegal gun possession and ban violation charge; the lawyer represented Kerwin in Quimonda, the city’s court of justice, earlier that morning.

You’d probably check #3, the illegal drugs thing.

Not out of passion

Crime of passion usually erupts suddenly, in the moment. The women’s confrontation and the sexual harassment case happened two years ago. It’s highly unlikely anyone would have Jonnah John shot for allegedly cheating on his wife or harassing a student, two-year-old fuses that must have long been spent.

If anybody wanted Jonnah John shot at or gunned down, it would’ve been done sooner when the flame of love or hate still raged.


Consider instead these circumstances tied to the drug issue:

● Jonnah John was charged last Oct. 12, 2016 before the regional state prosecutor in Tacloban City, along with suspected drug personalities and others, including three media workers, who allegedly took part or abetted in the drug trade;

● He insisted that his relations with the Espinosas had been “purely professional” but he had not confined his legal services to election and illegal gun possession cases but included any issue or event relating to illegal drugs.

● Another lawyer for the Espinosas, one Rogelio Rato Jr. was also gunned down in Leyte last Aug. 23.

Coddler, protector

With those must be factored the mindset of those engaged in waging the war on illegal drugs. Jonnah Jonah might not have technically taken part in the crime of illegal drugs (possession, use, trafficking), but in defending the Espinosas before prosecutors and judges, he became part of the machinery that the police, PDEA and other law enforcers are trying to take down.

Fusion of personalities--as lawyer of alleged drug lords, with the clients he protects--Jonah John became more than a dispenser of legal services. He became a coddler and protector: he kept them away from, or got them out of, jail. To those enforcing the law, he became an enemy.

Scary for lawyers

Which makes this era scary for lawyers who defend persons accused of having violated the illegal drugs law. Which complicates the role of a defense lawyer whom the suspect or accused hires or the state provides.

The much-talked-about fat fees of a drug case lawyer might not be worth the risk of being the target of salvaging, along with the suspect or accused he defends in court.
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