DIFFERENT ACTIONS. Atty. Joey Luis Wee was gunned down last November 23, 2020 as he was walking into his office building in Kasambagan, Cebu City.
Atty. Baby Maria Concepcion Landero-Ole was shot dead last December 17, 2020 while she was driving her pickup truck on the highway in Danao City on its way south, most likely to Cebu City.
Both killings shook Cebu as they occurred less than a month (23 days) apart and were executions with the victims helpless in well-planned assaults staged by multiple killers.
The stark difference in response of law enforcers:
Four days after Atty. Wee's murder, on November 27, the Cebu City Police Office announced that it has formed an SITG or Special Investigation Task Group to look into the killing. At about the same time, the NBI's regional office said it was also investigating the case.
Cebu City Police Chief Josefino Ligan said the SITG would help with the NBI inquiry.
Almost three weeks after the death of Atty. Landero-Ole, there is still no word about an SITG or NBI participation in the investigation. NBI may require a request of the victim's family but the special group is procedural step required by the Philippine National Police manual of operations.
DIFFERENCE IN RESULTS. The holidays in the wake of the Danao City killing, compared to none after the Cebu City murder, may explain partly the difference in results. But the NBI and SITG involvement has helped a lot. If for nothing else, it told the law enforcers and the public that it was a serious case that must be solved.
Fifteen days after Atty. Wee's murder, one suspect, Fausto Edgar Peralta, a resigned military officer, apparently the leader of the group of killers, was arrested by the NBI in Laguna where he served as chief of the security group of a private warehouse. Two days later, on December 10, he and five others, three of whom were John Does, were charged.
In contrast, there was still no update, as of Sunday, December 3, about the inquiry into Atty. Landero-Ole's murder: no special group of investigators, no NBI participation, no suspects, or even persons of interest.
IBP LAWYERS AND SITG. Under PNP's manual of operations, killings of lawyers and other forms of violence against them require the creation of an SITG. The SITG "shall spearhead and coordinate the investigative and prosecutorial efforts of the PNP to facilitate the speedy resolution and successful prosecution of heinous and sensational cases."
The murders of the two Cebu lawyers in November and December last year are considered, applying the PNP manual, "sensational and heinous crimes."
The PNP manual classifies victims on the regional level where the regional police director supervises the SITG: when the victim is a senator, congressman, governor, Cabinet secretary or undersecretary and Supreme Court or Court of Appeals justice.
And on the province, district or city level, where the police deputy regional director supervises the SITG: when the victim is a vice governor, provincial board member, mayor, vice mayor, judge, prosecutor or IBP lawyer, militant, media practitioner or foreign national.
Lawyers are on the second tier of SITG, along with journalists (!), with the deputy regional director overseeing the coordination.
Resources of crime detection and prosecution include the provincial/city legal service, provincial/city intelligence office, provincial crime lab, regional intelligence office, and Criminal Investigation Division, among others.
DISTURBING BIT IN OLE CASE. A December 17 SunStar story reported that the police said Atty. Landero-Ole was the wife of Juanito Flores Ole, "an alleged known drug lord and an ex-convict from the New Bilibid Prison," who was shot dead on May 27, 2020 at the Danao City terminal shortly after his release from prison.
What difference would that make? In past killings, which involved personalities that figured in one way or another in illegal drugs cases, the solution rate had been dismal. Many such murders have been unsolved or un-cleared, cold cases that end up in the archives.
That suspicion cannot be supported by hard evidence though. No police officer has been proven to be intentionally sitting on drug-related cases. But public distrust persists.
With an SITG led by the PNP deputy regional director as supervisor, maybe the killing of Atty. Landero-Ole will be treated with the seriousness and urgency the police manual of operations requires for specified "sensational and heinous" crimes.
TASK FOR IBP. The Cebu province chapter of IBP cannot be content with its public statement when the story of the killing of Atty. Landero-Ole first broke out: "vehemently condemn," "an attack against an officer of the court," "an assault on the legal profession." Thatclearly was not enough. Atty. Ria Lidia Espina, chapter president, and her board may push for an SITG coordinating the investigation and the NBI helping in the inquiry.
The murder of Atty. Wee, by law enforcement standards, is considered "solved" or at least "cleared" even though the mastermind is still not identified. The man or woman who ordered the hit, with two other accused, is still at large.
IBP Cebu City chapter president, Atty. Regal Oliva, and her board may press for the arrest of the mastermind who sent or "imported" killers to do the job. Also, a number of unanswered questions relate to public order and safety of the province and cities of Cebu: how the killers got in and out so easily in the time of pandemic, who supplied the weapons or enabled them to slip through checkpoints.
The chapter can aid in getting the answers.
And both IBP chapters can help prosecute all the accused once they are caught and tried. Impunity can be reduced, which in turn will help curb the killings, once the murderers are arrested and convicted.