Human rights lawyer in SouthCot gunned down in front of his residence

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 September) —  The vice chair of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) was gunned down  in front of his residence in Surallah, South Cotabato at around 5 p.m. on Wednesday, September 15.

Atty. Juan Macababbad, concurrent chair of the UPLM’s SoCSKSarGends chapter in Mindanao, a member of Bayan Muna and the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), succumbed to multiple gunshots fired by two gunmen. He was the 58th lawyer killed under the Duterte administration and the third among the NUPL, the UPLM said in a statement.

Atty. Juan Macababbad, human rights lawyer gunned down in front of his residence in Surallah, South Cotabato at around 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 15 September 2021. Photo from the FB page of Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate

Macababbad was “shot five times,” House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said in a statement.

“While the case may go through the usual investigation, as with the other growing number of unresolved cases, it is clear that the murder of Atty. Macababbad is connected to his vocation of lawyering for the people. Atty. Macababbad has been receiving death threats before his murder,” the UPLM said in a statement issued by its chair, Antonio Azarcon.

“The climate of impunity,” Azarcon noted, “pervades with the lack of serious investigation and prosecution over thousands of extrajudicial killings in the country” and the legal profession has not been spared.

“Our colleagues have become main targets especially those who resist tyranny and defend human rights,”  the UPLM said.

The UPLM also called on the international community “to denounce this and many other attacks against Filipino lawyers as this hampers the practice of the legal profession and makes a mockery of the Justice System and the Rule of Law.”

“If they cannot stop the killings, then they should give way to those who have the moral ascendancy to bring back peace and justice to our country,” the UPLM said.

“We are angry and we are outraged! We rage, we will continue and we fight back!,” the UPLM said as it called for justice for Macababbad and all victims of impunity.

Zarate said the climate of impunity is “growing berserk in the country while Pres. Duterte goes all out in attacking his critics but defending mightily his allies and cronies.”

“Atty. Juan we believe is a victim of extrajudicial killing due to his human rights lawyering and firm stand for the oppressed,” he said.

“We will not stop until justice is served not only for Atty. Juan but for the thousands killed and oppressed under the Duterte administration’s bloody reign,” Zarate said.

Zarate described Macababbad as a “soft-spoken but fearless and dedicated human rights defender. A Bayan Muna member who believes in the politics of change, in 2019 elections, he ran but lost in the vice mayoralty race in their town in Surallah, South Cotabato. We rage as we demand justice and strongly condemn his assassination in this era of raging impunity in our country today! (MindaNews)