MANILA, Philippines – A lawyer in Cotabato City survived a slay attempt after gunmen aboard a pick-up truck shot at his moving vehicle on April 7, prompting the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to drum up calls to address the problem of lawyer killings, asking “will lawyers ever be safe?”
“While Attorney Ronald Torres and his driver were unharmed, thanks to their bulletproofed vehicle, the said incident nonetheless raises the question: Will lawyers ever be safe?” the IBP said in a statement Monday, April 18.
Torres, the current chairman of the Bangsamoro Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was heading home last April 7 when gunmen aboard a pick-up truck opened fire at his bulletproof vehicle. Both Torres and his driver survived the attack.
Torres told media later he has no known enemies, but suspects the attempt on his life was work-related.
Since July 2016 when President Rodrigo Duterte became president, there have been 66 lawyers killed, including judges and prosecutors, an unprecedented number and a number higher than all the presidents since Ferdinand Marcos combined.
The IBP, which had called this problem “alarming,” called on law enforcement agencies to thoroughly investigate the case and provide protection to his family.
Only a few of the 66 killings have resulted in charges, and the Department of Justice did not create a single special investigation focusing on lawyer killings. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has yet to respond to a question Monday if there was any update in their efforts to address this problem.
“Apart from instilling fear and restlessness in the hearts and minds of his family, such an occurrence plainly subverts the administration of justice, which is one of the hallmarks of our free and civilized society,” the IBP said.
“The IBP stands beside Atty. Torres on his quest to bring the perpetrators to justice and in his fidelity to the oath he gave as a member of the bar,” the IBP added.
The Supreme Court has also yet to give an update after they made a rare move March last year of condemning lawyer killings, and vowed to study if institutional changes can be made to solve it. The Supreme Court called for a nationwide month-long reporting so they could gather data and study it.
The 66th lawyer killed under Duterte was Cavite Assistant City Prosecutor Edilberto Mendoza who was shot in front of his home while doing his morning exercise last December 31.
– Rhoanne De Guzman/Rappler.com
Rhoanne De Guzman is a Rappler intern and a journalism student at the University of the Philippines Diliman.