Human rights lawyer killed in Cebu City ambush

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 26) — A founding member of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) was shot dead while his driver was injured in an ambush attack in Cebu City on Thursday afternoon, local police said.

According to an initial investigation, lawyer Rex Fernandez sustained several gunshot wounds and died on the spot after still unidentified motorcycle-riding suspects attacked his vehicle at around 4:10 p.m. The incident happened along Salvador Street in Barangay Guadalupe.

His wounded driver was brought to the hospital.

In a phone interview, Police Maj. Jonathan dela Cerna said Fernandez was also with an unidentified companion inside the car but did not elaborate.

Authorities said the two assailants waited for the lawyer’s vehicle at the corner of Salvador and Good Shepherd streets. Both fled the scene on their motorbike immediately after firing the shots.

Police found six empty slugs believed to be from a caliber .45 pistol in the crime scene.

In a statement, NUPL President Edre Olalia described Fernandez as a “passionate, intense and brave” human rights lawyer who, even after becoming inactive in the organization, continued to work on public interest cases, including those filed against activists.

“Before he was silenced, he castigated the present administration which he had hitherto placed his sincere hope on would bring change,” Olalia added. “He died disillusioned that it was not meant to be. Rest in peace already Rex. You fought a good fight.”

Fernandez recently went on a hunger strike against the management of the condominium he was staying at in Mandaue City over utility issues.

As of July 24, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said 63 lawyers have been killed under the Duterte administration.

In an earlier statement, the IBP condemned the assassinations, which it noted “have alarmingly increased by as much as 500%” compared to previous governments.

It had said it was working with the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to put an end to the rising attacks against its members. The IBP also called on police and investigative agencies to implement specific measures to improve the security of lawyers, judges, and prosecutors and swiftly resolve investigations on the killings.

Cebu-based Correspondent Dale Israel contributed to this report.