MANILA (UPDATE)— A lawyer was shot dead by an unidentified gunman in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City on Thursday afternoon, the latest in a string of attorneys' killings in recent months.
The victim was identified as human rights counsel Rex Fernandez, 64.
CCTV footage from the crime scene showed a man in a red jacket going to the passenger side of a grey car on Duterte Street in Guadalupe, where Fernandez and his driver were, and shooting at the victim.
The suspect then fled with another man on a motorcycle.
His driver was brought to the hospital after reportedly sustaining wounds in the attack.
Fernandez was known to have handled controversial cases.
The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) mourned Fernandez's death.
"No words, indeed. Another colleague has fallen with his boots on. We had lost count. It has not stopped and every lawyer is a sitting duck," NUPL President Edre Olalia said.
Olalia said Fernandez was a founding member of NUPL in 2007 and counsel for rights group Karapatan for years.
"He was passionate, intense and brave, even as he was unique in many ways. He handled many an amparo cases of activists when it was a promising remedy then. Even after he became inactive in NUPL later, he continued to collaborate with fellow human rights lawyers in public interest cases," Olalia said.
"Before he was silenced, he castigated the present administration which he had hitherto placed his sincere hope on would bring change. He died disillusioned that it was not meant to be. Rest in peace already Rex. You fought a good fight," he said.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Cebu condemned the killing of Fernandez, saying it was tragic since it happened even with the pandemic raging.
“It is frustrating that the spate of killings of lawyers continues despite a pandemic. The ambush and the taking of the life of Atty. Rex Fernandez is met with the strongest and most vehement condemnation by the IBP. Our chapter will raise the concerns of lawyers to the appropriate government agencies to again ensure that we live in a society where it is safe not only for those in the law and justice sector but for all," said Michelle Palmares of IBP-Cebu City.
"We call upon the law enforcement agencies, especially the investigative bodies of the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation, to identify the perpetrators, relentlessly pursue and hold them accountable."
Virgil Ligutan of the Lawyer’s Protection Program, meanwhile, said the string of attacks against lawyers in Cebu is still getting longer amid the pandemic.
“This has to stop. I believe the killing of Atty. Rex Fernandez was facilitated by the culture of impunity prevailing in our country today,” Ligutan said.
— With reports from John DX Lapid and Annie Perez