POLICE investigators looking into the motive behind the killing Monday of lawyer Jonah John Ungab, vice mayor of Ronda town, Cebu, have to consider several angles.
One thing clear was that Ungab became the second lawyer to be killed while defending a Visayas family accused of involvement in the illegal drug trade.
Ungab was shot in Cebu City after attending a hearing of his client, suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, for violation of the Omnibus Election Code (gun ban) and Illegal Possession of Firearms cases filed in 2010. Espinosa was sentenced to one year in prison for the gun ban violation but was cleared of the other charge as he was able to presence a license for his firearm.
The first lawyer of the Espinosa family who was shot and killed was Rogelio Bato Jr. In a way similar to how Ungab was killed, Bato’s vehicle was ambushed, and he died of gunshot wounds in Tacloban City in August 2016.
Bato was lawyer for Espinosa’s father, former Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. The father and son were among the drug personalities named by President Rodrigo Duterte. After that revelation, the elder Espinosa was arrested in Baybay city while Kerwin was nabbed in Abu Dhabi, both in 2016. The older Espinosa was later killed inside his detention cell in Baybay City, Leyte, in November 2016.
Ungab was not spared of allegations of links to the drug trade.
Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, former Albuera, Leyte, police chief, filed a complaint against Ungab and other respondents before the Department of Justice in Eastern Visayas for being drug protectors. The case did not prosper as the police reportedly were not able to present evidence.
Ungab’s Facebook account (www.facebook.com/john.ungab) showed a recent photo of him and Espinido in Manila. Espinido was still Albuera police chief when Espinosa Sr. was killed as Criminal Investigation and Detection Group elements tried to serve to him a search warrant at the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail in Barangay Hipusngo, Baybay City.
Ungab wrote on Facebook, “A court battle against this super cop Chief Insp. Jovie Espinido is like playing a tough chess match, nobody is willing to give up the queen. Like professional chess players, we shook hands, became friends and even posed for a selfie after the hearing, because in the end we know that we are just doing our jobs that is for him to enforce the law and to the lawyer to uphold the rule of law.”
He used the hashtag #respect. The post was dated Feb. 6, 2018 at 5:56 p.m. and the location was the Manila City Hall.
The Cebuano lawyer’s Facebook account was set to public and his posts may be viewed by anyone who visits his page.
Ungab posted frequently on Facebook with his last post made at 6:21 a.m. last Sunday, a day before he was killed. He posted a photo of a cow in a farm and wrote, “Take time to appreciate the simplest things around.”