The social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has condemned the killing of human rights lawyer Juan Macababbad in Mindanao last week.
“Caritas Philippines joins the thousands in condemning this brutal act against life,” read an official statement issued by Caritas Philippines.
“We will work with everyone to seek justice for [Macababbad] and all those who died defending the people and nature,” said Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, Caritas Philippines national director.
“We will push even harder for accountability especially of those in power,” said the prelate, adding that “outrage is not enough to describe how we feel with the gruesome killing.”
Bishop Bagaforo described the late lawyer as a “champion of social justice.”
“For many of us in Mindanao, his brutal killing puts us in deep sorrow …. He is whom we turn to when no lawyer will take the case of a farmer against the land lords and big corporations,” said the bishop.
“His free legal services and compassion for the vulnerable are the pillars of hope for most of the indigenous peoples fighting against the tyranny even of state forces,” he added.
The bishop said Macababbad’s “savage death meant an indefinite delay for the poor’s access to justice, peace and freedom.”
“But if his perpetrators think that with his death, all else is silenced and halted, they are dead wrong,” said Bishop Bagaforo.
Investigators said they are eyeing a “work-related angle” as a possible motive in the killing of Macababbad in South Cotabato province on September 15.
The lawyer was gunned down by motorcycle-riding gunmen outside his house at about five o’clock in the afternoon. He succumbed to multiple bullet wounds.
Macababbad was the 58th lawyer and the third member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers killed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte who came into power in 2016.
Macababbad was the legal counsel of indigenous tribesmen who were killed in Lake Sebu town in December 2018.