The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has started a separate investigation into the September 15 shooting to death of human rights lawyer Juan Macababbad in the town of Surallah in South Cotabato province.
Police on Monday, September 20, confirmed that the NBI has stepped in even as it said that it already has identified a “person of interest.”
Without naming anyone, South Cotabato police director Colonel Jemuel Siason said the initial investigation indicated that the spent shells found at the crime scene were similar to previous gun attacks staged in the province.
He did not elaborate but hinted at the possibility that the attack was carried out by guns-for-hire.
He said the NBI has already started a separate investigation into the killing and called it a “welcome development.”
“We can help the NBI by providing them with whatever information we have,” Siason said.
He said it was the family of Macababbad who sought the help of the NBI.
Siason said investigators were also looking into the cases Macababbad handled, including those he stopped lawyering in.
He said Macababbad may have angered his clients after the lawyer withdrew and stopped serving as their legal counsel.
Police said they also noted that Macababbad had received death threats before he was shot dead outside his home in Surallah town.
Investigators, he said, were also looking into Macababbad’s work as a human rights lawyer.
In another interview, Siason told Brigada News radio that Macababbad also handled land conflict and drug cases. He said investigators were trying to determine the motive for the lawyer’s killing.
“Dili undangan ang imbestigasyon hangtud dili masulbad ang kaso (We will not stop our investigation until we solve the case),” Siason said.
Investigators said witnesses saw three men (not two as previously reported), wearing bonnets, speeding off on two motorcycles after Macababbad was shot late afternoon on September 15.
Described by his peers as a passionate human rights lawyer, Macababbad was the chair of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) in Soccsksargen region, a member of Bayan Muna, and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).
South Cotabato Representative Ferdinand Hernandez, a lawyer by profession, said Macababbad was known to him as a soft-spoken lawyer who was firm in court, especially when he was lawyering for the poor. – Rappler.com
Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.