Philippine judiciary

NBI to look at security of courts after killing of Manila judge

Lian Buan
NBI to look at security of courts after killing of Manila judge

KILLING. Manila Judge Ma. Theresa Abadilal was killed by her own clerk of court inside her own chamber on November 11, 2020.

Photo courtesy of UP Portia Sorority

(UPDATED) 'We are also investigating and reviewing court policies,' says Court Administrator Midas Marquez

The case involving the killing of a judge in Manila by her own clerk of court, who also died, is not yet closed. This is as far as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is concerned, as the bureau has been tasked to look at the security of courts.

Manila judge Ma Theresa Abadilla, 44 years old, was shot by her clerk of court inside her own chambers on Wednesday, November 11. The clerk of court, Amador Rebato, died of a “self-inflicted wound,” according to the Manila police.

“Although Judge Abadilla’s death appears to have arisen from an internal issue with her clerk of court, I have nonetheless directed the NBI to conduct a parallel probe, considering that the incident has implications on the personal security of our judges and justices,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters on Friday, November 13.

Court Administrator Midas Marquez told reporters Friday: “We are also investigating and reviewing court policies.”

It was not clear whether court staff such as Rebato could carry arms inside the courthouse wing of the Manila City Hall, or even inside the city hall itself. The Supreme Court has not responded to this question yet.

Asked the same, police Major Rosalino Ibay Jr of the Manila Police District Special Mayor’s Reaction Team (MPD SMaRT) said security protocol is not within its jurisdiction. Rappler has reached out to the Manila Public Information Office (PIO), but has yet to receive a response.

Ibay could not answer whether Rebato had a license to carry. Rappler has also reached out to MPD Homicide Division Chief Captain Henry Navarro, but he has yet to respond.

“The NBI will look into all possible angles and motives, as well as make recommendations to the Supreme Court on improving security measures in all halls of justice, court rooms, and premises,” Guevarra said.


Ibay said they have recovered from the scene a 9mm gun, 2 empty shells, and 12 live bullets in the magazine.

The first responders were criticized for carrying Abadilla from the 5th floor (where the crime happened) all the way down to the ground floor – not on a stretcher, but on an office chair.

Abadilla was declared “dead on arrival at 3:15 pm,” according to the MPD.

‘Yun nga ‘yung mabigat dun eh, tumulong na nga tayo, ‘yun na ang best thing na nakita namin para maibaba siya,” Ibay told Rappler in a phone interview on Friday. (That’s what’s unfortunate about this, we helped…but that was the best thing we saw to carry her down with.)

“They were not in the situation, hindi nila alam ‘yung tension na nandun (they don’t know about the tension in the air),” Ibay said.

Ibay said Rebato was no longer taken to the hospital, and was turned over to the MPD Homicide Division. His sister, who accompanied him to the office to meet with the judge, consented.

Wala na talaga eh, patay na, wala kaming nakitang any sign of breath, walang init sa bibig niya,” said Ibay.

‘Stop victim blaming’

A spot report from the Manila City Hall’s security office said Rebato had contracted the coronavirus and was planning to resign, and was visibly “uneasy and shuddering” before he met with the judge.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said “it is ironic that while the IBP and the Philippine Medical Association and the Philippine Psychiatric Association were conducting a webinar on how to manage stress and mental health in the legal profession in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic, we learn of the tragic shootings and deaths.”

The University of the Philippines (UP) Portia Sorority Alumnae Association, of which Abadilla was a member, called the spot report “premature.” The group also said the report “relied solely on the information provided by one person without conducting a full and fair investigation of the incident.”

The sorority condemned on Friday social media posts that insinuated the judge was partly at fault for her death.

The sorority said some posts suggested that the judge made Rebato’s mental health condition worse.

“This is not only baseless but also deeply disrespectful to her memory. It dangerously trivializes her murder and justifies the inexcusable crime of the gunman,” UP Portia said in a statement Friday.

There was an outpouring of sympathy from the judiciary for the friends and family of Abadilla, whom Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta called “an upright and highly competent magistrate.”

Abadilla had worked for more than a decade in the Supreme Court before she became a judge.

“Judge Tessa was a competent and dedicated judge who had served and given most of her productive years in the service of the Judiciary,” said Philippine Judges Association (PJA) president Felix Reyes in a statement also on Friday.

Her passing is a constant reminder that judges, while performing their judicial duties and functions, are not spared from the risks and hazards that they are exposed to, not only from an assassin’s bullet, but even from persons known to them,” said Reyes.

From her detention facility in Camp Crame, Senator Leila de Lima on Saturday, November 14, mourned the death of Abadilla saying the judge’s life, though brief, served as an “inspiration” to all.

“Her demise in the line of duty as a brilliant young judge is a poignant reminder of the promise and tragedy of the legal profession in our country. For how many times have we seen the heroism of our judges and lawyers met with threats, intimidation, and other forms of violence by those who seek to manipulate the law for their own twisted ends?” De Lima said.

 “Young and dynamic judges, such as Judge Abadilla as she was, are the future of our law and judiciary. We must exert all efforts to shield them against all enemies of the rule of law,” she added.

De Lima said members of the judiciary should be “rewarded with support, protection, acknowledgment, and remembrance.” –

For people experiencing mental or emotional stress, the Department of Health has a national crisis hotline to assist mental health concerns. The hotline can be reached at 0917-899-USAP (8727) and 0917-989-8727. The Natasha Goulbourn Foundation can also be reached at 804-4673 and ‎0917-558-4673.

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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 or tweet @lianbuan.