A LAWYER working for the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) and her son were wounded in an ambush conducted along a major road in Mandaue City, Cebu Thursday evening, Sept. 1, 2022.
The Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO) identified the lawyer as Karen Quiñanola-Gonzales, head of CPA’s Business and Marketing Department.
Gonzales and her 19-year-old son were shot inside their vehicle by two unidentified gunmen riding a motorcycle around 10 p.m. on Hernan Cortes St., Barangay Banilad, Mandaue City, as they headed home.
Lt. Col. Franco Rudolf Oriol, deputy director for operations and spokesperson of the MCPO, told reporters Friday morning that the attackers were intent on killing the lawyer as based on the initial report sent by the Scene of the Crime Operation operatives, the victims’ vehicle was peppered with at least six bullets, all of which were on the driver’s side where Gonzales was seated.
Based on her son’s narration, the motorcycle had moved beside their vehicle and then its occupants suddenly started shooting, Oriol said.
Gonzales sustained one gunshot wound on her lower left jaw that penetrated her neck, while her son had one minor gunshot wound in his back.
Oriol said Gonzales’ son was already in stable condition but they had not received updates on Gonzales’ condition, except that she was still scheduled to undergo surgery.
He said the victims could have been followed by the suspects the moment Gonzales and her son left her workplace. Police have yet to identify the kind of firearm used in the attack.
The Police Regional Office in Central Visayas ordered the MCPO to solve the crime as soon as possible.
Police Lt. Col. Mary Crystal Peralta, spokesperson of Police Brig. Gen. Roque Eduardo Vega, said the incident Thursday was a cowardly attack, considering that the victim is a female lawyer.
She said Vega had ordered the MCPO director, Police Col. Jeffrey Caballes, to conduct a thorough investigation and identify the persons behind it as soon as possible.
The CPA condemned the ambush and called for a “swift and transparent investigation” and arrest of the perpetrators.
“The Cebu Port Authority and the whole Cebu Port community are both shocked and distressed to learn about the unfortunate shooting incident of our beloved CPA official and her teenage son at Hernan Cortes, Mandaue City yesterday. We vehemently condemn this grave act of violence, and we call on the authorities to conduct a swift and transparent investigation and bring the perpetrators to answer for their crimes to the fullest extent of the law,” it said in a statement Friday, Sept. 2.
The CPA also urged the public “not to share insensitive media posts regarding the incident nor further disclose personal information of the victims that could jeopardize their safety and privacy.”
Other groups also condemned the ambush, with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu City Chapter offering a P50,000 reward to anyone who can give information that will lead to the arrest of the shooter and other persons responsible for the shooting.
Oriol said they had not talked with the victim’s family yet, but they are looking into at least three possible motives for the attack.
They are looking into Gonzales’ profession as a lawyer, particularly all the legal cases she had handled, her work as the head of CPA’s Business and Marketing Department, and possible personal grudges.
In a text message sent to SunStar, Mayor Jonas Cortes said he was closely monitoring the investigation on the incident.
Cortes said he could not allow violence and lawlessness to run rampant in the city.
He sent prayers for Gonzales’ and her son’s swift recovery.
Calls for justice
Groups outraged at the brazen attack called on law enforcement authorities to act swiftly to bring the perpetrators to justice.
In a statement, the IBP Cebu City Chapter said the people “should not allow shooting incidents to be a common fare in the news.”
“September is the rule of law month. But today has left us in utter shock and disbelief, as there is yet again, another attack against a member of the legal profession,” it said.
It called on “all law abiding, peace loving, concerned and responsible citizens to help us find and identify the perpetrator/s of this senseless crime,” by offering a P50,000 reward for information.
“The members of our chapter’s security committee will actively take part in the investigation that will be conducted by law enforcement authorities,” it added.
Flag and UP
In their respective statements, Free Legal Assistance Group (Flag)-Cebu chapter and University of the Philippines (UP) Alumni Association-Cebu Chapter also called on law enforcement authorities to arrest the persons behind the shooting.
Lawyer Magdalena Lepiten, Flag-Cebu chairperson, said they are praying for the recovery of Gonzales and her son.
“We, as members of Flag-Cebu, condemn the ambush against Atty. Karen and we pray for her and her son’s speedy recovery. We pray that law enforcement agencies will work hard to investigate the incident and arrest the perpetrators,” Lepiten said in a statement.
She said Gonzales is a member of Flag-Cebu chapter and “any assault on a lawyer reminds us how close we are to the brush of death in these difficult times.”
“We, likewise, denounce the continued attack against human rights workers, members of the clergy and ordinary citizens. Extrajudicial killings that flourished under the Duterte administration continue unchecked under Marcos Jr.’s rule. As members of Flag, we will continue to fight for the protection and promotion of human rights of everyone in the Philippines,” the group added.
The UP Alumni Association-Cebu Chapter said the ambush “has no place in Metropolitan Cebu at a time when the transition to the new normal is imperative to enable economic recovery.”
“Crimes such as this set back the confidence of the very people who can drive that recovery onwards. The victims could have been very well any one of us going home from work during a hard day’s night,” it said.
“We therefore call on law enforcement authorities to solve the case and bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice,” it added.
Gonzales is a graduate of UP Cebu (high school and college). She is also a former reporter for The Freeman.
Based on data from Abraham Acosta, a member of the chapter’s board of directors and Flag, 14 lawyers have been killed in Cebu since 2004, the IBP Cebu City said.
The latest fatality was human rights lawyer Rex Fernandez, who was gunned down on Aug. 26, 2021, in Cebu City.
“For the months October-December 2020 alone, three lawyers have been shot, with only one surviving the ambush. Most of the rest, unfortunately, have not yet been given the justice that they had studied and served during their lifetimes,” said Acosta through IBP Cebu City president Michelle Geraldine Mendez-Palmares. (WITH AYB)