A VETERAN Cebuano lawyer who recently staged a hunger strike after the management of the condominium where he was living in cut off his water supply, was shot to death by a man in Banawa, Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 26, 2021.
The fatality was identified as Rex Jose Mario Fernandez, who succumbed to gunshot wounds in different parts of his body. He was sitting on the passenger seat of a gray Toyota Camry (ZBL-485) when the attack happened at the corner of Duterte St. and Good Shepherd Road at 4:10 p.m.
Fernandez, 62, is the second lawyer murdered in Cebu City in nine months. On Nov. 23, 2020, lawyer Joey Luis Wee was gunned down outside his law office in Barangay Kasambagan.
A special investigation task force will be formed, considering the victim was a lawyer, Guadalupe Police Station Chief Jonathan de la Cerna said. The area is under his jurisdiction.
Fernandez last appeared in court on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, when he assisted groups that oppose the redevelopment of the Carbon Market in the filing of a petition to nullify the joint venture agreement between the Cebu City Government and Megawide Construction Corp.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) condemned the killing, saying “another colleague has fallen with his boots on.”
“We had lost count. It has not stopped and every lawyer is a sitting duck,” the NUPL, represented by Edre Olalia as president and Neri Colmenares as chair, said.
“Rex was a founding member of NUPL in 2007. He was also Karapatan counsel for years. He was passionate, intense and brave, even as he was unique in many ways. He handled many amparo cases of activists when it was a promising remedy then. Even after he became inactive in NUPL later, he continued to collaborate with fellow human rights lawyers in public interest cases,” they said in a statement.
“Before he was silenced, he castigated the present administration which he had hitherto placed his sincere hope on would bring change. He died disillusioned that it was not meant to be. Rest in peace already Rex. You fought a good fight,” the NUPL added.
IBP Cebu’s call
For its part, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu Chapter denounced the killing and demanded justice for the lawyer.
“The entire legal community cries in anger at this ruthless murder which brings immeasurable horror to the family, friends, and colleagues of Atty. Fernandez,” it said in a statement.
IBP Cebu promised to coordinate with authorities, saying: “We pledge to take a stronger action and assistance in the investigation. Hence, we appeal to the establishments in the area that have CCTV footage of the incident to cooperate with the investigators.”
“An attack on our brother-lawyer for case-related motives is an attack on-the justice system and the rule of law we promised to protect. We, therefore, urge the law enforcement authorities to investigate this case promptly; otherwise, if no definitive resolution is made, the threats and deadly assault on lawyers will persist with impunity,” it said.
Fernandez’s driver was also wounded in the attack. He was rushed to a hospital in Cebu City.
The vehicle’s third passenger was a woman, who was sitting on the backseat. It was not yet clear what happened to the woman.
A security camera footage from an establishment near the crime scene shows the gunman standing outside a bakery. The gunman is wearing a red sweatshirt and a surgical mask. When Fernandez’s vehicle slows down upon entering the main road, Duterte St., the gunman runs to the passenger side and opens fire several times. The gunman then runs toward a red motorcycle waiting by the curb. The gunman flees the crime scene on a motorcycle driven by another person.
One of the witnesses said he heard a series of gunshots. He also saw the gunman running towards Fernandez’s vehicle.
The police are looking into all angles, including Fernandez’s work as a lawyer. They will also look into his life outside the lawyering profession, said Guadalupe Police Station Chief Jonathan dela Cerna. (AYB / KAL)