Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has denounced the latest ambush on a Cebu-based lawyer even as she renewed her call for a Senate investigation into the rising unsolved cases of killings and attempted killings against members of the Philippine Bar.
De Lima, a human rights and social justice champion, issued the statement after lawyer Inocencio de la Cerna Jr. was ambushed in the vicinity of the court where he attended a hearing of his client last Monday in Cebu City.
“We strongly condemn this latest attack against a member of the Philippine Bar. The attempt against De la Cerna’s life reeks the brazenness of hired gunmen who continue to enjoy impunity from arrest and prosecution,” she said.
“Our authorities must ensure that the mastermind and the perpetrators of this dastardly act will be brought to justice, along with several other cases of killings and attacks against members of the law profession,” she added.
Based on initial police investigation, De la Cerna was driving his car after attending a hearing at the Cebu City Justice Hall when two men riding a motorcycle overtook his vehicle and opened fire. He suffered a gunshot wound in his right arm.
De Lima, a lawyer and a former justice secretary, said the targeted and systematic attacks against lawyers makes it even more imperative for the Senate to conduct an immediate investigation.
“Hindi na biro ang mga nangyayaring ito. Panahon na upang magsagawa ang Senado ng malalimang imbestigasyon ukol sa nangyayaring karahasan laban sa ating mga abogado,” she said.
Last July 25, De Lima has filed proposed Senate Resolution No. 33, urging the appropriate Senate committee to look into the continued assault against members of the legal profession, including lawyers, prosecutors and judges.
Since Mr. Duterte assumed office in July 2016, at least 41 judges, prosecutors, and lawyers have reportedly been killed according to the updated list of the National Union of People’s Lawyers released last July 29.
In July alone, two lawyers – Anthony Trinidad and Nicolas Gomez Jr. – were gunned down in a span of seven days in Negros Oriental and Valencia, Bukidnon, respectively.
The lady Senator from Bicol has also introduced a measure increasing the penalty against crimes committed against lawyers by considering these offenses as aggravating circumstance.
Under her Senate Bill No. 780, De Lima wants to include the crime committed against lawyers and other justice sector officials as aggravating circumstance, thereby amending Section 14 of the Revised Penal Code.
Touted as staunchest critic of the administration’s bogus war on drugs and the rampant extrajudicial killings, De Lima has been slapped with trumped-up charges in a bid to silence her vocal stand against the Duterte regime.