Impunity in the Philippines

As DOJ and Supreme Court meet to examine murders, a 56th lawyer is killed

Lian Buan

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As DOJ and Supreme Court meet to examine murders, a 56th lawyer is killed
Winston Intong of Malaybalay, Bukidnon is the 56th lawyer killed in Duterte's 4-year presidency

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Supreme Court (SC) finally made commitments to examine the killings of lawyers in the country, but the developments can’t move fast enough as a 56th lawyer was killed a day after their meetings.

Winston Intong was gunned down near his house in Malaybalay, Bukidnon on January 14, a day after the DOJ and the SC held their meetings with stakeholders. Intong was reportedly on the administration’s drug list.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) hosted the stakeholder meeting on January 13, which the DOJ attended.

As a result, “the DOJ will come up with an inventory of cases under investigation by the NBI, under preliminary investigation by the prosecution service, and undergoing trial in court, for the purpose of monitoring their progress very closely,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters on Wednesday, January 20.

The SC held its own meeting with judges and clerks on January 13 over the same issue, according to Court Administrator Midas Marquez. 

“We are now drafting our report to be submitted to the Chief Justice who instructed us to meet with all stakeholders and find ways on how this can be addressed,” Marquez told reporters.

The SC held meetings with the IBP, other law groups, law enforcement and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) earlier in January.

IBP national president Domingo “Egon” Cayosa said the Supreme Court will also “require courts to inventory all pending lawyer-killing cases, ageing and status, reasons for delay, and expedite resolution.”

These meetings were prompted by mounting calls to take action on the alarming rise in lawyer killings, which have now reached 56. since President Rodrigo Duterte took his oath in June 2016.

Data from the DOJ show that 31 judges and prosecutors were killed in a span of 16 years from 1999, compared to the 21 judges and prosecutors killed in only 4 years of Duterte.

The same data from the DOJ showed that of the 56 killings, only 5 cases have reached the courts, with the rest of the killings not having data in the prosecution docket. The DOJ assumes no suspect has been identified for the rest. 

Guevarra had earlier admitted the difficulty in cracking such cases of murders as “many of these killings had been carefully planned and were probably carried out by professional killers.”

Cayosa said there was legislative commitment to include prosecutors, state lawyers, and private lawyers in the bill seeking to establish judicial marshals.

Cayosa said the IBP will also have an agreement with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police (PNP), and Armed Forces of the Philippines (IBP) to better secure lawyers. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.