Lawyer Rex Fernandez was killed by unidentified perpetrators in an ambush in Banawa, Cebu City on August 26, 2021.

The Freeman / Aldo Banaynal

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has directing the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the killing of public interest lawyer Rex Fernandez in Cebu.

Guevarra on Friday issued Department Order 204 ordering NBI Officer-in-Charge Eric Distor to conduct its own probe into the brutal slay of Fernandez who was shot to death in his own vehicle on broad daylight on Thursday.

The NBI may also file appropriate charges against persons involved in the case, if evidence warrants, the DOJ chief said.

Distor is told to submit progress reports to the Office of the Secretary within ten days and periodically after.

Regional police are also conducting an investigation into the killing of Fernandez.

The Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, said it is dispatching a quick response team to also look into the incident.

The Supreme Court’s Committee on Human Rights, led by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, meanwhile said it will welcome submissions of reports from the police or concerned groups on the murder of Fernandez.

Leonen said it is currently sifting through analyzing earlier filed reports “to discern whether there are patterns in the killing of lawyers and threats to judges so that we can evaluate a strategic response.”

An independent tally from the Free Legal Assistance Group said that in March, at least 61 lawyers were killed in Duterte’s term, higher than murders in the legal profession combined in the past six administrations spanning 44 years. This would put Fernandez as the 64th lawyer killed in the current administration.

A separate list from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said Fernandez is the 57th lawyer killed on prima facie or on first impression due to work.

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