“If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end.” – Bayard Rustin
NEW YORK CITY – We’re curious, worried and alarmed.
Are lawyers who defend in court those accused in cases involving illegal drugs also being targeted for summary execution in the Philippines?
Does lawyering for the society’s “bad elements” constitute a sin punishable by death?
Does defending the rights of the accused in narcotics cases also make lawyers enemies of the state?
Our curiosity aroused early this year when a prominent lawyer in Cebu City, Jonah John Ungab, was gunned down while driving his car in broad daylight along S. Osmena Street in Cebu City on February 19, 2018.
Ungab was the lawyer of wanted suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.
Also in Cebu City on July 2, 2018, another lawyer, Salvador Solima, known for handling high profile drug cases, was killed inside his house at Singson Compound in Barangay Guadalupe.
On Friday morning in Bacolod City, prominent lawyer Rafael Atutubo, 62, who handled drug-related cases, was gunned down by motorcycle-riding assailants while sitting outside his house on Galo Street, Barangay 20.
The manner the crime was executed was intriguing.
The same pattern and method.
The same purpose?
Just like the recent spate of murders involving Catholic priests highly critical against the police’s operations and their alleged summarily killings of street-level drug suspects, it appears there is a trend in the killing of lawyers handling narcotics cases in the Philippines.
We hope and pray all these incidents weren’t state-sponsored and those involved in the attacks weren’t members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) like in numerous cases recently of foiled ambush attempts on drug personalities where some of the slain triggermen were organic PNP members.
The escalation of violence involving the campaign against illegal drugs has gone too far.
Lawyers, priests, cops, mayors, village chiefs, and journalists have been waylaid violently like stray dogs all in the name of “all out war” against illegal drugs.
And only few people are angry and willing to denounce violence, which has become the trademark of the Philippines since President Rodrigo Roa Duterte launched an aggressive campaign against illegal drugs.
We’re not saying that the police have allowed themselves to be used as “berdugos” or tools to eliminate suspected drug dealers and drug addicts and their defenders, but they should be our protectors, not our killers.
Atutubo’s grisly murder was too much to bear for the peace-loving Filipinos who are now starting to realize that the war against illegal drugs can’t and will never be won overnight through violence.
We demand justice for all victims of extra-judicial killings; we demand the immediate end of violence in the name of war against narcotics.