Slain Cebu lawyer: Leonen asks local authorities, rights groups to submit findings

August 30, 2021 - 12:15 PM
A photo of the Supreme Court building (Philstar/File photo)

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen enjoined authorities and human rights groups to submit before the Supreme Court their findings on the recent killing of a lawyer in Cebu.

Veteran lawyer named Rex Fernandez was killed in broad daylight in Cebu City on Thursday afternoon on August 26.

CCTV footage showed that a shooter in red fired at Fernandez’s car several times in Banawe in Cebu.

His driver was rushed to the hospital after sustaining wounds.

Fernandez, a founding member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, was known to handle cases of human rights victims in Central Visayas.

According to Alternative media group ANINAW Productions, he served as one of the counsels of the “Cebu 8,” a group of protesters who were arrested at the University of the Philippines in Cebu last June 2020.

Based on the tally of NUPL, Fernandez would be the 57th lawyer killed since July 2016 under the Duterte administration. The count of the Free Legal Assistance Group or FLAG, however, is higher.

ALSO READ: FLAG: 61 lawyers slain in Duterte term — higher than killings from Marcos to Aquino admins

In a statement on August 27, Leonen expressed condolences to the slain lawyer’s family and friends for his passing.

“On behalf of the Judiciary’s Committee on Human Rights, the Chief Justice, and the other justices, we extend our condolences to the family and friends of Atty. Rex Jose Mario Fernandez,” he said.

Leonen also said that the high court welcomes new reports by the police and other concerned groups on the incident until the end of September.

“The killing of any lawyer is of serious concern to all of us. Violence solves nothing. It is anathema to the rule of law,” Leonen said.

The submission of reports was in line with the rare collective statement of all 15 high court justices last March urging an examination of all threats and killings of lawyers and judges in the past 10 years.

This came amid the mounting pressure for the SC to speak up on the alarming incidents of threats and killings of judges and lawyers under the current administration.

“This much was said by the Court En Banc in its extraordinary statement last March. Even as we continue to sift through and analyze voluminous records and reports submitted to us upon our call to discern whether there are patterns in the killing of lawyers and threats to judges so that we can evaluate a strategic response, we will welcome new reports to be submitted by the police and by other organizations on the latest incident in Cebu,” Leonen said.

He also stated they will also submit their own report about the action of the court en banc.

“Shortly after, we will be submitting our report and recommendations for the action of the Court En Banc,” Leonen said.

NUPL, IBP mourn for another fallen lawyer

In a separate statement, NUPL President Edre Olalia lamented the death of Fernandez and remembered his work in public service.

“He handled many an cases of activists when it was a promising remedy then. Even after he became inactive in NUPL amparo later, he continued to collaborate with fellow human rights lawyers in public interest cases,” Olalia said.

“Before he was silenced, he castigated the present administration which he had hitherto placed his sincere hope on would bring change. He died disillusioned that it was not meant to be,” he added.

NUPL-Cebu Chapter and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter also expressed their sadness over Fernandez’s death.