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Ambushed lawyer, companions face charges of illegal possession of firearms

/ 05:40 AM February 17, 2018

Argel Joseph Cabatbat—GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

The lawyer who survived an ambush in Quezon City earlier this week may also be charged for failure to present a permit to carry a firearm.

Lawyer Argel Joseph Cabatbat, his driver Ardee Llaneras and his companions John Ramos and Rodel de la Cruz may face charges of illegal possession of firearms, according to Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar, director of Quezon City Police Disrict (QCPD).

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The four men came out unscathed after they were ambushed by three men on two motorbikes along Edsa early Tuesday. Two suspects, later identified as Police Officer 1 Mark Ayeras and John Paul Napoles, reportedly opened fire at their black Montero Sport at the corner of Edsa and East Avenue.

Speaking to reporters, Cabatbat said he tried to reach for a 9-mm gun that was inside the vehicle’s front compartment. He said Ramos, who was seated in front, reached for it instead and exchanged fire with the hitmen.

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Uncle’s firearm

“We are still waiting for the verification from the Firearms and Explosives Office of the Philippine National Police on the ownership of the weapon used by Ramos,” he told the Inquirer. However, he noted that Cabatbat claimed that it was his uncle’s firearm, but failed to produce pertinent documents.

Eleazar also said that the police also eyed the filing of homicide charges against the lawyer and the three other men for Ayeras’ death.

Ayeras, who was on absent without official leave status, was shot once in his body, initial investigation revealed.

However, pending autopsy results, authorities said it was still unclear whether he died due to the gunshot wound, since his motorbike—driven by a cohort still at large—was also rammed by the Montero’s driver.

Napoles, meanwhile, survived a similar collision with the sports utility vehicle and remained in East Avenue Medical Center after undergoing operation in his right leg.

“We are studying whether we would file homicide charges against them because someone was killed,” Eleazar said.

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The police director said Ayeras’ father had already spoken to case investigators on Thursday.

Attempted murder

On Wednesday, the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office recommended filing charges of attempted murder and illegal possession of firearms against Napoles, whom Eleazar said still refused to speak with authorities.

Meanwhile, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) condemned the attack against Cabatbat as a “grievous affront to the rule of law.”

Environment of fear

“Many other lawyers, judges, and officers of the court, have of late been targeted with pinpoint accuracy and swelling impunity, thereby creating an environment of fear that has manacled the pillars of the justice system,” the group said in a statement.

IBP urged law enforcement agencies to get to the bottom of the recent attack and other unsolved incidents.

“Lawyers must be able to advocate their clients’ causes free from the corrupting elements of fear and intimidation,” it added.

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