Impunity in the Philippines

On last day of 2021, Cavite prosecutor becomes 66th lawyer killed under Duterte

Lian Buan
On last day of 2021, Cavite prosecutor becomes 66th lawyer killed under Duterte
(1st UPDATE) A gunman approaches the 48-year-old prosecutor doing his morning exercise in front of his home, shoots him in the head three times, and flees on foot

MANILA, Philippines – Assistant City Prosecutor (ACP) Edilberto Mendoza from Trece Martires, Cavite was gunned down in front of his home on Friday, December 31, making him the 66th lawyer killed in the past five years and a half of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay issued an order on Friday for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to step in and do a case buildup, a move that the DOJ does for special cases in order to beef up or expedite investigations.

Mendoza was 48 years old, according to the Cavite provincial police.

Cavite police chief Arnold Abad said the gunman, who went to the prosecutor and shot him in the head close range, was still unidentified. The gunman fled the crime scene on foot, said the police.

Mendoza was doing his morning exericise in front of his home when he was shot.

Cavite police said it has organized a special task force for the case.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said “the tragic death of ACP Mendoza clearly demonstrates the risk to life that our prosecutors face in the performance of their duties.”

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Of the 66 killed since July 2016, 14 were former or current prosecutors. Nine (9) were retired or former judges and justices.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) had said it was “appalled by the increasing and sheer number of assasinations of lawyers, judges, and prosecutors with impunity.” (READ: Half of lawyer killings since 2016 were work-related – FLAG)

The IBP said on Sunday, January 2, that Mendoza’s killing should prompt more collective efforts to solve the problem.

“The IBP once again calls for a nationwide effort to protect our lawyers and judges. We cannot ignore the disturbing and increasing frequency of lawyer killings. We will not stand idly by and watch as many more of our brethren are attacked and murdered,” IBP national president Burt Estrada said.

Faced with mounting pressure from lawyers, the Supreme Court did a nationwide survey last March for lawyer killings and incidents of harassment over the last ten years. The Court vowed institutional changes, but has not yet released the results of that study.

In the meantime, the Court addressed other human rights problems by scrapping remote warrants and requiring police officers to wear body cameras.

The DOJ, which oversees prosecutors, does not have a single special investigation that would focus on lawyer killings. Few of the 66 killings have resulted in charges.

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– With reports from Dennis Abrina/Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.