Chief Justice, IBP urge probe on killing of lawyer in Tagum

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /14 March) – Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Thursday condemned the killing of lawyer Rex Jasper Lopoz in Tagum City, and urged authorities to conduct a thorough probe.

The 41-year old Lopoz, a resident of Nabunturan, Davao de Oro (formerly Compostela Valley) was shot dead as he was about to board his car at the parking lot of City Mall in Tagum City Wednesday night.

Lawyer Rex Jasper Lopoz. Killed in Tagum City, 13 March 2019. The Supreme Court Chief Justice and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines are urging a probe on his killing. Photo from the FB page of Rex Jasper Lopoz

Senior Insp. Anjanette Tirador, spokesperson of the Tagum City Police, said Lopez was killed at around 7:21 p.m. by still unidentified assailants.

Tirador said authorities have yet to determine the motive of the killing.

Bersamim, who was in Davao City Thursday for the launching of Davao City as the country’s third Justice Zone, said: “That’s very tragic because no human life should be wasted in that manner, especially if you are a lawyer, serving the courts of justice.”

“I call on the law enforcement agencies of the government to extirpate criminality especially the gun for hire or whoever, that has no place in the society,” ABS-CBN News quoted Bersamin as saying.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in a statement issued by National President Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, National President also urged authorities to conduct a thorough probe on the killing of Lopoz, which it said was the 38th victim among lawyers, judges and prosecutors, killed under the Duterte administration since August 2016.

The IBP also renewed its call on the Supreme Court to initiate a “thorough and impartial investigation into all the killings of Filipino lawyers” by convening a dialogue among the Supreme Court, IBP and state security forces and other relevant organizations “in order to engage in an open and constructive discussion on ensuring the safety and security of lawyers.”

“We call on the police and investigative authorities to solve these cases with a real sense of duty and competent dispatch,” it said.

The IBP said Lopoz’ death “marks the most recent in a quick succession of violent attacks against lawyers, judges, and prosecutors.”

“We are almost losing count, but there have been 38 such reported killings since Atty. Rogelio Bato Jr was killed by unidentified gunmen in Tacloban, Leyte on August 23, 2016,” Fajardo said.

The victim’s brother Arvin Dexter Lopoz, also a lawyer, wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday night: “Just an hour ago, they killed my younger brother Atty. Rex Jasper M. Lopoz. Gunshots to his back. Dead on arrival at the hospital. Yes. He was no saint. He had his failings. Killed in the Duterte Drug War. Summarily killed. Again, by riding-in-tandem killers.”

Lawyers, prosecutors and judges “are being targeted with surging frequency and impunity,” the IBP said, adding that before Lopoz, Cebu prosecutor Mary Ann Castro was killed  on January 17, 2019, while lawyer Alwyn Mendoza was abducted on Feb. 23, 2019.

“This series of unsolved crimes against lawyers has germinated a dark halo of fear that has paralyzed the most important pillar of the justice system,” it said.

Murder and other forms of mindless violence have no place in a civilized society and “lawyers are professionals who must not be associated with the perceived crimes of their clients,” the IBP said.

“We are sworn to advocate our clients’ causes within the bounds of law, free from fear and intimidation, and regardless of our own opinions as to their guilt and innocence,” it added. (Mart Sambalud / MindaNews)