Kerwin Espinosa’s lawyer killed in Cebu City ambush
CEBU CITY — Less than two hours after accompaying self-confessed drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr. in the courtroom, lawyer Jonnah John Ungab was killed in an ambush in broad daylight on Monday on one of the busiest streets in Cebu City.
Ungab was shot twice in the head inside his car just a few meters from the Cebu City Palace of Justice at about 11:50 a.m.at the North Reclamation Area here.
Ungab, who was also vice mayor of Ronda town in southern Cebu, was declared dead about 2:00 p.m. in a hospital in Mandaue City.
His wife Pearl, who was with him inside the vehicle, was not hurt in the ambush.
SPO1 Winston Ybañez, investigator of the Cebu City Police Office’s Homicide Section, said they were looking into all angles of the crime.
“This could be work related or something personal. Our investigation, nonetheless, continues,” he told reporters.
Ungab, a father of six children, was the second lawyer of Espinosas killed in an ambush by still unidentified perpetrators.
On Aug. 23, 2016, Rogelio Bato Jr. was shot dead by men riding a white pick-up and a motorcycle on Tacloban City, Leyte.
Espinosa was flown to Cebu City on Monday to attend the promulgation of his cases in Cebu City. He was clad in a bulletproof vest and was heavily guarded by National Bureau of Investigation agents.
The 46-year-old Ungab accompanied his client to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 23 at about 10 a.m.
The court sentenced Espinosa to a prison term of one year for violating the 2010 election gun ban. He was acquitted of illegal possession of firearms after he was able to prove that his gun was licensed.
Ungab attended to two more cases after the promulgation.
Ungab went to RTC 11 to represent another client, Romanian Petru Ioan Uveges, who was charged in relation to the alleged skimming that hit automated teller machines of the Land Bank of the Philippines in Cebu City in 2017.
Later, Ungab went to RTC 58 to assist another client who was arraigned on charges of selling illegal drugs.
He did not stay long, however, since the judge already requested another lawyer to assist the accused for purposes of arraignment only.
Ungab stepped out of the Cebu City Hall of Justice around 11:30 a.m. and boarded his gray Suzuki Kizushi car with his wife.
Ungab slowed down to prepare to turn right from the Port Service Road to S. Osmeña Road.
At this point, a man wearing a face mask then walked towards the driver’s side and fired twice, hitting the lawyer in the left temple and left ear.
Ybañez said Ungab’s car accelerated out of control, rammed into a taxi, and stopped in front of Sugbutel Family Hotel.
The assailant boarded a get-away motorcycle driven by another person in full-face helmet and sped towards downtown Cebu City.
Investigators recovered two empty shells from a .45-caliber pistol at the crime scene.
Aside from Espinosa, Ungab also served as lawyer of suspected Danao City-based drug lord Alvaro “Barok” Alvaro and Chinese-Filipino businessman Kenneth Dong who was tagged in the P6.4-billion shabu shipment confiscated by the Bureau of Customs last year.
Ungab was earlier identified by Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, former chief of the Albuera police in Leyte, as among the alleged drug protectors of Espinosa, allegedly the biggest drug lord in Eastern Visayas.
The lawyer was charged at the Regional State Prosecutor’s Office in Tacloban City. But he was eventually cleared by state prosecutors for failure of the police to present sufficient evidence against him.
Lawyer Mundlyn Misal-Martin, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu Chapter, denounced the killing of Ungab, the 10th lawyer in Cebu killed by gunmen since 2004.
“This act of violence against us lawyers has no place in a civil society. As lawyers, we are only doing our job as mandated by the law and as our personal commitment to our clients,” she said. “We hope that society will understand our importance and our specific roles. Any act against us, either for vengeance or not, is an act of an uncivilized man. This shouldn’t be in this generation.” /atm
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