Fear Grips Cebu Court Employees

CEBU CITY, Philippines - Workers at the Palace of Justice yesterday expressed fears that the shooting incident that took place last Tuesday could happen again even as authorities have already beefed up security and imposed stricter entry rules into the building.

Court workers said the atmosphere inside the Palace of Justice housing the various Cebu City courts, is that of fear and apprehension that the bloody shooting incident, where a Canadian national shot and killed a lawyer and a doctor and injured a lady prosecutor before taking his own life, could happen again.

"Last Tuesday's incident showed that even inside the Palace of Justice no one is safe and we should be scared because we are dealing with criminals facing charges here," said one court employee who refused to be identified.

At least 10 prosecutors led by regional state prosecutor Fernando Gubalane and Cebu City Prosecutor Nicolas Sellon applied for permit to bear firearms in connection with the May election before the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Comelec officials said the request has already been submitted to the Comelec head office for disposition.

Aside from Gubalane and Sellon, prosecutors Van Russel Inopiquez,

Mario Edgardo Montenegro, Rogelio del Prado, Simaco Labata, Noel Cellona, Ricky Jones Macabaya, Liceria Rabillas and Oscar Capacio, all with the Cebu City Prosecutor's Office, also applied for gun permits.

Gubalane said he was frightened by last Tuesday's shooting inside the Palace of Justice, where lawyer Jubian Achas and his client, Dr.

Reynold Rene Rafols, were shot and killed by Canadian national John

Pope.

Although prosecutors are exempt from the Comelec gun ban, Gubalane said they will still have to comply with the necessary requirements to obtain a permit to carry firearm. The application for permit will be handled and approved by the Committee on the Ban on Firearms and Security Personnel headed by Commissioner Elias Yusoph.

Comelec's Resolution 9561, promulgated November 23, 2012, prohibits anyone from carrying firearms in connection with the May 2013 elections.

Sellon, Inopiquez, Montenegro, Del Prado, Cellona, Macabaya, Capacio, and Gubalane all applied for a permit to carry their firearms.

As this developed, Acting Cebu City Police Office Director Mariano said the body of Pope remains unclaimed as no relative or family member has yet surfaced to pay for hospital bills. He said, however, that the Canadian consulate in Cebu has already contacted Pope's family in Canada.

Pope's sister is expected to arrive in Cebu this Saturday and Natuel said only on that day would it be known if Pope will be autopsied or not. He said autopsy proceedings need the consent of a family member.

The autopsy will determine if indeed Pope shot himself after shooting the victims, although Natuel has earlier announced that it was Pope, not the responding policemen, who caused the gunshot wound on his (Pope's) head.

"We also have witnesses who claimed to have seen Pope shooting himself," said Natuel.

The police has also checked the house of Pope in Brgy. Kalunasan, where they found a scribbled note, believed to be written by Pope, showing the Canadian's frustrations on the local justice system.

Meanwhile, Regional State Prosecutor Gubalane said they visited Casiño in the hospital last Tuesday night. Casiño sustained gunshot wound in her nape when she was shot by Pope. She was resident prosecutor of MTCC Branch 1 wherein a case has also been filed against Pope.

Gubalane said financial assistance will be given to Casiño. Cebu City South District Rep. Tomas R. Osmeña has offered P300,000 from his Christmas bonus in Congress to help shoulder the hospital expenses of Casiño.

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