By Jigger J. Jerusalem
THE Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) decried the killing of a lawyer from Davao in Bukidnon on Sunday.
Authorities identified the lawyer as Nicolas Gomez Jr., 67, who was gunned down by still unidentified assailants in downtown Valencia City early Sunday evening.
In a statement, lawyer Beverly Musni, a member of the UPLM who spoke on behalf of the organization, said Gomez’s death “sends a chilling effect to lawyers in the region already red-tagged and vilified having alleged links to the [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army].”
“UPLM condemns in the highest term the extrajudicial killing of Atty. Nicolas Gomez Jr. by riding-in-tandem assailants last night in Valencia City, barely five days after the ambush of human rights lawyer Atty. Anthony Trinidad in Negros Oriental last July 23,” Musni said in a text message Monday afternoon.
Aside from Trinidad, another lawyer, Benjamin Ramos, was in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, shot on Nov. 6, 2018, she said.
“The blood of lawyers executed and gunned down, now numbering 26 under President Duterte’s dispensation, has reached the doorstep of Northern Mindanao,” Musni said.
“These escalating number of lawyers’ deaths should be investigated, their killers put behind bars if the ends of justice are to be truly served,” she added.
Investigators are looking at a land dispute as the most likely angle in the shooting death of Gomez.
Aside from his residence in Davao, Gomez was said to also have owned a property in Project 4, Quezon City.
Valencia police chief Col. Surki Sereñas said Gomez was residing in Barangay Lumbo of the same city.
Sereñas said Gomez was walking alone along a road in Poblacion, in downtown Valencia, when the hitmen approached him as he walked past a bakery, and pumped bullets into the lawyer at around 6:30 in the evening Sunday.
He said Gomez’s killing could either be work-related or has something to do with land dispute.
Sereñas said they were able to obtain a copy of a surveillance camera but they could not get a clear profile of the suspects.
In a separate interview, Bukidnon provincial police director Col. Roel Lamiing said Gomez was shot to different parts in the body.
Police crime laboratory operatives found four used cartridges at the crime scene, he said.
He said the suspects wore face masks and jackets.
Lamiing said they are looking into the information that the properties owned either by Gomez or his family in Valencia and Malaybalay were allegedly under litigation and that a group of squatters was involved in the case.
He said they already have a lead and that investigators are gathering evidence for a case build-up.
Efforts have also been made to review the cases that Gomez was handling in Bukidnon before his death that would provide additional clues on the motive behind his shooting, Lamiing added.