Judge in Espinosa case feels unsafe after ambush of lawyer

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 23) — A Manila judge hearing the case against alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa is concerned about his safety following the death of Espinosa's legal counsel last week.

Speaking to media, Judge Silvino Pampilo, Jr. of the Manila Regional Trial Court confirmed he felt threatened after a gunman shot Espinosa’s former lawyer dead.

“All of us are scared because two lawyers of the defense died, so we have to do our job. I hope both parties don't take it personally. We are only doing our job,” he said.

Espinosa's lawyer, Atty. Jonah John Ungab, was killed by an unidentified gunman after the promulgation of his two cases in a Cebu City Court.

Ungab, who was also the sitting vice-mayor of Ronda, Cebu, was the second lawyer of the Espinosa family killed in an ambush.

READ: Lawyer of alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa ambushed after court hearing

His ambush followed the death of Rogelio Bato from multiple gunshot wounds in August 2016. Bato was the lawyer of Kerwin's father, slain Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa.

The younger Espinosa has asked the court to give him ample time to find a new lawyer.

Ako po ay humihingi ng kaunting dispensa… Sa ngayon po ang sa nangyari sa lawyer ko ay hindi po ganoon kasimple so hopefully maintindihan niyo,” he said.

[Translation: I’m asking for some leeway… What happened to my lawyer isn’t that simple so hopefully you understand.]

Meanwhile, the prosecution has filed a motion seeking Pampilo's inhibition on Espinosa's case.

Prosecutor Christian Bachiller said they have lost their trust in the judge after he allowed a former prosecution witness to testify for the accused.

Both Kerwin and his father were tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte in his list of alleged illegal drug coddlers and traffickers.

Authorities arrested the younger Espinosa in Abu Dhabi in 2016. In October 2017, Kerwin pleaded not guilty to charges of trading and distribution of dangerous drugs.