By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Another peoples’ lawyer was killed Wednesday, Sept. 15.
Lawyer Juan Macababbad, Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) vice chairperson and member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyer (NUPL), was shot by two gunmen in front of his residence in Surrallah, South Cotabato.
Macababbad was the third member of the NUPL and 58th lawyer who was gunned down under President Duterte’s administration.
“While the case may go through the usual investigation, as with the other growing number of unresolved cases, it is clear that the murder of Atty. Macababbad is connected to his vocation of lawyering for the people,” said UPLM Chairperson Antonio C. Azarcon in a statement.
Azarcon said Macababbad had been receiving death threats prior to the incident.
Defender of indigenous peoples, environment
Macababbad handled several cases, particularly in defense of indigenous peoples and protection of the environment.
He served as the legal counsel of the Lumad victims in the Lake Sebu massacre in 2017.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said that Macababbad also joined several fact-finding mission and served as the legal counsel to indigenous peoples, teachers and community members in the SOCSKSARGEN.
“Such attacks against those in the legal profession, particularly against the committed and tireless human rights defenders among them, should stop. We demand justice for Atty. Macababbad and all lawyers killed under this administration,” Palabay said.
Macababbad was also one of those who opposed the coal mining applications of DM Consunji at the Daguma Mountain Range in the SOCCSKSARGEN region.
In 2015, Macababbad was slapped with Strategic Lawsuit Againt Public Participation (SLAPP) after “their local mass movements barricaded the aerial spraying facilities of Sumifru’s Banana plantation,” according to Leon Dulce, national coordinator for Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.
“This is why it is urgent to enact policies such as House Bill 8170 or the Environmental Defense Bill that grants protection mechanisms and various remedies to human rights abuses against defenders. This is why we need to #DefendTheDefenders,” Leon added.
The groups demand justice for the slain lawyer.
“The climate of impunity pervades with the lack of serious investigation and prosecution over thousands of extrajudicial killings in the country. The legal profession is not spared, and our colleagues have become main targets especially those who resist tyranny and defend human rights,” Azarcon said.
Just last month, lawyer Rex JMA Fernandez was killed in Cebu City in broad daylight.
Different lawyers groups have been calling the Supreme Court to take action on the increasing attacks on the members of the judiciary. (RVO)