“A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.”
-- Vito Corleoni in “The Godfather”
BY design or as result of media attention on what Jonnah John Ungab did when he was alive, the past few days we have seen unwrapped alleged acts of villainy by the murdered Ronda, Cebu lawyer-vice mayor.
Initial outpouring of grief over “a good man” and “a competent lawyer” and outrage over the killing of someone who “was just doing his job” shifted to outright accusation that he was not just dispensing legal services, he was involved in the illegal drugs trade.
Kind words from family, friends and brothers of the profession were soon followed by scathing and caustic denunciation from a police official, Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido of Ozamiz City.
Hagen to Vito
In a CDN story, Espenido didn’t hide his joy over Ungab’s death; he broadcast his “elation.” We know he has a reputation to protect, his being a killer of mayors in the drug trade although there’s scarce evidence of that.
The police chief dumped traditional respect for the dead by saying he wasn’t a hypocrite and went right on, publicly saying Ungab was a drug trader too, a partner of self-confessed drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa. Was Ungab the lawyer and “consiglieri” as well: Tom Hagen to Don Vito Corleoni in the “Godfather,” maybe minus the briefcase metaphor?
Before Espenido threw the ton of mud at the dead, there was initial splattering of dirt: such as Ungab defending in drug cases not just Kerwin, but also the father, Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, “Barok” Alvaro and other drug lords as well.
The smearing is decidedly unfair. Ungab can no longer defend himself. It would no longer be central issue in any litigation. The gunshot wound in the head outside the Qimonda seat of justice in Cebu City shortly after he appeared for his clients last Feb. 19 made that irreversible.
But it is what it is. Police and NBI in investigating Ungab’s execution must dig up and ferret out: the good, the bad, the ugly about the victim. The task is to identify the killers and build evidence against them. Included must be Information that doesn’t cast Ungab in a good light.
The bigger wrong would be to use the unproved accusations against Ungab to justify the killing.
Not only that the charge of having been directly involved in the drug trade was not proved in court. Even if it were, the penalty of death would not be lawful. That’s why the killing is extrajudicial: outside the realm of law and beyond the prescribed penalties.
Rubbing salt on raw wound, Espenido depicted Ungab’s death as a “consequence of what he did”: “payback time,” karma.
How about those who executed Ungab, committing murder under man’s law and God’s law? Would there be consequence for them too?
Would police and NBI catch the killers when the hunters are suspected to be on the same side as the hunted, waging the same cause?
Can relatives and friends of Ungab rely on the state’s machinery of justice? If it would be left to the karma Espenido talked about, masked killers would also be needed or justice would be elusive indeed.