MAC: Mines and Communities

Human Rights Lawyer, Driver Shot Dead In Sorsogon

Published by MAC on 2006-12-12
Source: Inquirer

Human rights lawyer, driver shot dead in Sorsogon

By Juan Escandor Jr., Inquirer

December 12, 2006

NAGA CITY -- A human rights lawyer and his driver was shot dead by two motorcycle-riding men Tuesday in Sorsogon province as he was returning from a hearing at a regional trial court here, police said.

Gil Gujol was killed at about 10:00 a.m. in Sitio (sub-village) Naduyan, in the village of Payawin, Gubat while on his way to Sorsogon City, Senior Police Officer 3 Roque Fundamera told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

The attack came a day after Cris Frivaldo, a brother of a left-wing party member who was killed in January, was fatally shot by masked men as he sat in his house in nearby Irosin town.

Marie Enriquez, head of the Philippine human rights group Karapatan, believe the killing was politically motivated since Gujol, who had handled human rights cases for over 10 years, represented left-wing activists and one former communist rebel leader who was assassinated in May. Gujol also represented opponents of a controversial Australian mine on Rapu-Rapu island, she said.

The body of Gujol was recovered by police authorities some 100 meters from where the van he was traveling in stopped following the ambush, said Fundamera.

Fundamera said Gujol's driver, identified as Danilo France, was found slumped dead on his seat and was apparently the first one the unidentified assailants shot when they caught up with lawyer's van.

He said that Gujol had apparently tried to flee from his attackers but was shot in the buttocks and, after falling on his face near a house, was finished off with a shot to the head.

Fundamera said the police had yet to determine the motive for the killings and establish the identity of the assailants. Salvador Españo, municipal development officer of Gubat, Sorsogon, said that Gujol was an active member of militant groups in Sorsogon and participated in anti-government protests there.

Karapatan meanwhile said that Frivaldo, 35, could be a member of the party-list group Bayan Muna.

Deputy Director General Avelino Razon, chief of Task Force Usig -- a special police unit tasked to investigate political killings -- said he had ordered the Bicol police to determine if Frivaldo was really a member of the leftwing group.

Frivaldo sustained five gunshot wounds -- four to his chest and one to his head, said Karapatan. It added that Frivaldo was the 21st political activist killed in the Bicol region since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001.

At the national level, the attacks have brought the number of victims of political killings to 801 since 2001, according to Karapatan.

About half of the victims belong to activist groups and the Bayan Muna party. Another 206 people have been abducted during the same period and remain missing, Karapatan said.

International human rights groups such as the London-based Amnesty International and the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong have expressed grave concern over the rising number of political killings.

In an unprecedented move, the American, Australia-New Zealand, Canadian, European, Japanese and Korean business chambers as well as an association of multinational companies issued a joint statement last month condemning the killings, saying "such violence has no place in a modern democratic state."

Arroyo has denounced the killings and has created a fact-finding body to investigate them.

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