The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has been tasked to probe the killing of human rights lawyer Juan Macabadbad in front of his house in Surallah, South Cotabato last Sept. 15.
The directive to the NBI was issued by Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra in Department Order No. 222 dated last Sept. 20.
Guevarra’s directive also stated that “if evidence warrants, to file the appropriate charges against all persons involved and found responsible for any unlawful act in connection therewith.”
He directed NBI Officer-in-Charge Director Eric B. Distor “to submit reports on the progress of the subject investigation directly to the Office of the Secretary within ten (10) days and periodically thereafter.”
At the time of the killing, Macabadbad was the vice chairman of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM).
UPLM Chairman Antonio C. Azarcon revealed that “Atty. Macababbad has been receiving death threats before his murder.”
With Macabadbad’s killing, Azarcon said that “the Duterte administration added to its legacy the 58th lawyer and the third National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) member killed during his murderous regime.”
Both the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) have condemned the killing of the public interest lawyer.
“CHR strongly denounces this latest killing of another agent of law and an active defender of people’s rights and interest,” Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.
Through its President Burt M. Estrada, said the IBP expressed concern over the “disturbing and increasing frequency of lawyer killings” in the country.
Both De Guia and Estrada were in agreement that lawyers uphold the rule of law and should be able to do so without threats for their lives.
“It is crucial that lawyers and human rights advocates are able to do their noble work without fear of reprisal and retribution,” De Guia said.
“Lawyers are mandated to strive for justice, and they must be able to do so without fear of reprisal or violence,” Estrada said.
The CHR and IBP have prodded the government to address the unabated killings of lawyers in the country.
Estrada said the IBP is calling for “a nationwide effort to protect our lawyers and judges” as De Guia sought “for swift action and proactive efforts that will ensure the protection of lawyers, including the vulnerable sectors that they represent.”
The CHR said it has launched its own investigation into the killing of Macabadbad.
The IBP, on the other hand, said it will continue to work with the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Philippine National Police to address and arrest these rising attacks against its members just as it calls upon our police and investigative agencies to formulate and implement specific measures to improve the security of lawyers, judges, and prosecutors and to expeditiously resolve its investigators on these killings so that the perpetrators are swiftly and truly held accountable.”
It added that it will also likewise “assist in, and monitor the investigation and prosecution of his (Macabadbad’s) case so that the perpetrators can be identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”