Philippine judiciary

Murder case recommended vs suspect in slay of lawyer who aided drug war victims

Jairo Bolledo

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Murder case recommended vs suspect in slay of lawyer who aided drug war victims

IN MEMORIAM. Lawyers, women's groups and human rights defenders from the National Union of People's Lawyers, stage a protest ang light candles at the Boy Scout Circle in Quezon City on September 15, 2023 in honor of Atty. Ma. Saniata Liwliwa Alzate, who was murdered in Abra province on September 14.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

Lawyer Maria Saniata Liwliwa Gonzales Alzate was shot dead insdie her car, parked in front of their house in Abra, on September 14, 2023

MANILA, Philippines – A local prosecutor pushed to file a murder charge against the suspect in the killing of an Abra lawyer in September last year.

In a resolution dated February 6, but was only publicized on Friday, February 16, Abra acting provincial prosecutor Daryl Fajardo indicted or recommended the filing of charge against Angelo Infante Indon (also known as Angelo Alfonso) and his unidentified companion for the murder of lawyer Maria Saniata Liwliwa Gonzales Alzate on September 14, 2023.

The prosecutor said that they filed a murder charge because of the treachery and premeditation of the crime.

The case will be filed with the Bangued, Abra Regional Trial Court.

Alzate was killed while inside her car, parked right in front of their house, in Santiago street, Zone 2, Bangued town – Abra’s capital. The two motorcycle-riding assailants fled after shooting her. The lawyer was brought to a nearby hospital, but later expired due to the gunshot wounds she sustained.

It took almost five months before the complaint reached a resolution because the Abra provincial prosecutor was asked by lawyer Raphiel Alzate, the slain lawyer’s husband, to inhibit from the case. Among the reasons cited in the inhibition was the previous filing of a case against the slain lawyer by the Abra prosecutor.

In deciding on the complaint, Fajardo said he was convinced through various evidence – such as several affidavits, CCTV footage, and autopsy report – that murder had been committed, with reasonable certainty that Indon committed it.

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The prosecutor noted that the suspects waited for the lawyer to arrive at her house and “took that moment when the victim would less expect that she will be attacked.” With this, Alzate was caught by surprise and could not defend herself, the prosecutor added.

He added that the acts of the suspects – which include the purchasing of a motorcycle and the respondent’s decision to head to Bangued, even though he was a resident of Nueva Ecija – revealed his intent to commit the alleged crime.

“Respondents underwent a process of meditation, and tenacious persistence in the accomplishment of the criminal act,” the prosecutor added.

Alzate was the third lawyer to be killed since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumed office in June 2022, and the 118th since 1972. The data is based on Rappler’s independent tally, along with data from the Supreme Court, Department of Justice, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, and the Free Legal Assistance Group. The data spans eight presidents: from the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos up to his son, incumbent President Marcos Jr.

The slain lawyer, as a public interest counsel, assisted and helped countless indigent clients, including victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war. Her husband earlier told Rappler that Alzate specifically helped clients who were victims of illegal arrest at the height of Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Before her demise, Alzate was able to secure the issuance of a writ of amparo – a protective writ – for her client, who was allegedly abducted, detained, and tortured by police personnel in Bangued town.

Alzate also served as president of Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Abra chapter for two terms, and as the organization’s former legal aid committee chairperson. Only weeks before her death, she was appointed IBP Commissioner on Bar Discipline, tasked to investigate and look into disciplinary cases against lawyers filed before the IBP. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.