A human rights lawyer was shot dead by a lone gunman in the central Philippine city of Cebu on Thursday, August 26.
Lawyer Rex Jesus Mario Fernandez, 62, was on board his car when he was attacked by the gunman at 4:10 p.m., said police reports.
Footage from a security camera in the area showed the gunman, who wore a red jacket, fleeing aboard a motorcycle driven by another man after the shooting.
At least six empty shells of a .45-caliber pistol were recovered at the crime scene, according to the police.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) decried the killing of Fernandez who was a founding member of the group in 2007.
He was also counsel for human rights group Karapatan.
“No words, indeed. Another colleague has fallen with his boots on. We had lost count. It has not stopped and every lawyer is a sitting duck,” said lawyer Edre Olalia, NUPL president.
Olalia described Fernandez as “passionate, intense and brave, even as he was unique in many ways.”
Even after he became inactive in NUPL, he continued to collaborate with fellow human rights lawyers in public interest cases, said Olalia.
In a statement, the NUPL in Cebu said Fernandez was the 57th lawyer killed in the country since 2016 and the eleventh in Central Visayas during the same period.
“The recent killing of Atty. Rex supports the long-observed spate of attacks against lawyers, paralegals, and human rights workers have dramatically increased as the culture of impunity continues and the lack of investigation and prosecution over thousands of extrajudicial killings in the country,” read the lawyers’ statement.
On Friday, lawyer Jacqueline de Guia of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said the body would probe the killing of Fernandez.
“CHR decries the brazen assault against a person’s right to life. No reason can ever justify any act that will arbitrarily deprive a person of their life,” said De Guia.
“We have also seen numerous assaults against lawyers. It is tragic that those too in the legal profession have fallen victims to injustices and human rights violations that they have sworn to fight,” she added.
The CHR called on the government to act swiftly on Fernandez’s death, noting that “the list of unsolved cases of killings and violations of rights continue[s].”