PHILIPPINES: Podcast – Phenomenon of murders in Cebu

(Hong Kong, February 6, 2012) In this episode of cast, the AHRC comments that the phenomenon of murders in Cebu, particularly the killing of a lawyer’s wife and two others, is a result of breakdown of the law in a society.

In this report (time code: 02:30-05:09), Virginia Sesbreño, wife of lawyer Raul Sesbreño; her friend Soledad Epanto, and driver Joshua Young, were killed in an ambush in Talisay City, Cebu, on February 1. The target of the attack was supposedly Raul, but he was not inside the vehicle at the time.

The policemen claimed the attack on the Sesbreños could have been carried out and masterminded allegedly by either government officials whom Sesbreño were prosecuting in court for wrongdoing or a community of informal settlers that had their houses demolished after he reportedly won ownership of a land in Talisay City.

The AHRC, however, argues that regardless of the motive the murder illustrates the breakdown of law in Cebu. The phenomenon of murders in Cebu, which had been thriving for many years now, should not be seen only as either ‘isolated incidents’, as claimed by the police investigators; or, ‘incidents of ordinary crimes of murder’.

In a society where the rule of law — an idea on which implementation of law would have fundamental protection on human rights — does not operate any form crime and attacks on human lives is possible. Here, the attack is not only on a lawyer exercising his legal profession or his right in owning land, but of the notion on which grievances and complaints could be resolve in court by due process.

The phenomenon of paying ‘hired killers’, which is common in Cebu and other parts of Mindanao, to carry out murders demonstrates the breakdown of the fundamental concepts of law and criminal justice. Here, the notion where legal disputes and conflicts should be resolved in court process has become meaningless. They are resolved instead by the barrel of a gun, power and influence in the society.

In this case, for government officials to allegedly employ hired killers to attack a lawyer who is prosecuting them and for affected villagers to allegedly retaliate against a lawyer for reportedly winning over ownership of a land, illustrates the lack of trust and confidence in the country’s system of justice. Here, the people would rather commit crimes in order to clear their names or protect their property interests.

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Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PRL-009-2012
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Rule of law,