Public interest lawyer Juan Macababbad was shot dead outside his home in Surallah town, South Cotabato, on Wednesday, September 15, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) confirmed to Rappler.
“Atty. Macababbad was gunned down at around 5:30 in the afternoon earlier just outside of his house by two unidentified individuals. According to initial reports, he sustained seven gunshot wounds to the head,” IBP South Cotabato and General Santos chapter president Remigio Rojas told Rappler in a phone interview Wednesday night.
Macababbad was declared dead on arrival, said Rojas.
Macababbad is a member of the red-tagged National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), and the chairman of the Socsksargen chapter of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM).
The UPLM said in a staement that “Atty. Macababbad has been receiving death threats before his murder.”
“He’s active in peoples’ lawyering, he handled a wide array of cases from civil to criminal,” said Rojas.
“He was a silent, unassuming & amiable guy who had a ready smile behind his rather fatherly bespectacled profile. We are losing the good guys out there while the bad guys are frolicking and plundering all over,” said NUPL president Edre Olalia.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Thursday, September 16, that they will chek whether Macababbad’s death can be placed under the justice department’s special committee investigating political killings. There is no special investigation so far into lawyer killings.
“The DOJ will await the report of local police investigators and evaluate whether the killing falls under the jurisdiction of the inter-agency committee on EJKs,” said Guevarra.
65th under Duterte
Macababbad is the 65th lawyer killed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. That is according to our own consolidated list, compiled from different groups and government agencies.
NUPL has a different count at 58 because of a different criteria, counting only those whose death appear to be work-related. Macababbad is the 3rd NUPL lawyer to be killed under Duterte, said Olalia.
“When will this madness stop? How? Coming as it is on the eve of our 14th founding anniversary, this latest attack on another comrade-in-law is hideously evil,” said Olalia.
Before Macababbad, human rights lawyer Rex Fernandez, also an NUPL member, was killed in Cebu City just last August 26.
The new leadership of the IBP has hit what it called as an “alarming increase” in lawyer killings.
Rappler data shows that compared to 65 under Duterte, in contrast, there have only been 92 lawyers killed in the span of 44 years, from the administration of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to that of Duterte’s predecessor, the late Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
NUPL data shows there’s also a surge of other forms of attacks against lawyers under Duterte, including red-tagging.
The Supreme Court has reconvened a human rights committee to look at the trend of lawyer killings, promising institutional changes after it asked for a nationwide submission of threats, harassments and attacks against lawyers.