When will the killings stop? When can we get reprieve from fear? How can we not be alarmed when even those whom we turn and depend on to for help, are being threatened and killed? Not only human rights defenders, but even the bishops, priests, nuns, and lawyers who are fulfilling their mission to help the most poor and deprived.
Our heart bleeds as another pro-poor lawyer has fallen victim to a scheme of unabated killing and impunity. We, at Philipine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) denounces this treacherous killing of Atty. Rex Jasper Lopoz. We mourn for losing another protector of people without voices.
Yesterday morning, March 14, Atty. Rex Jasper Lopoz was shot at the back while trying to board his vehicle parked at City Mall in Tagum, Davao. He was brought to the Bishop Reagan Hospital by his companion who thought he suffered from heart attack only to find out later on that a gunshot wound caused his death.
A People’s Lawyer
In 2009, in an article profiling Atty. Rex Jasper Lopoz, he was described as someone who came from the ranks of a common tao. Before becoming a lawyer, he did various odd jobs so he can support his family and finish his studies. From hawking cigarettes, becoming a kristo in a cockpit, helping in kitchenettes while doing his research work and thesis. He went through all these so his family can survive and he can become a lawyer.
Having lived the life of ordinary people, he devoted his time as a lawyer to finding justice for the poor and marginalized. He handled a flurry of cases that dealt with farmers woes, workers demand for fair wages, illegal arrests and extra judicial killings.
His death adds to the increasing number of lawyers dying for a cause. Statistics show that there were already 35 members in the judiciary who have died under the Duterte regime, not to mention the more than 20,000 number of people killed due to drug war, 3 priests, 12 journalists, and 48 environmental defenders as per the Global Witness Report in 2017.
We Seek Justice
The families of victims seeks out reasons for the sudden and tragic death of their loved ones and for those who are behind their deaths. Closure and acceptance can only come when families finally get justice. Culprits should be held accountable and penalized, lest, discontent and dissent among the people will continue to grow.
Thus, we appeal to authorities to investigate the death of Atty. Lopoz, whose life spent among the ordinary people have made him a true People’s Lawyer. Let not his death become another additional number to thousands of unsolved cases of killings. Indeed, in a our situation where impunity and violence have become the norm, and has become the State’s policy, no one is safe in the Philippines. Not even those living in Davao whom the President boasts as the most peaceful place in the Philippines.
Vigilance at All Times
We encourage vigilance among us, citizens. Let not the killings be the norm in our society. Let us not turn our backs from the core of our humanity, that which to uphold life. We can’t just kill people because we differ in beliefs. We can’t annihilate them because one has committed a sin, mistake or a crime. All should have a forum to explain and redeem one’s self. All should be given space to live, grow and perform his or her role to the fullest possible. Only in this environment that good can triumph. Not in an intolerant, misogynistic, egotistic system that those in power are spousing.
These are confusing and dreadful times, more vicious than the brutal realities perpetrated by the Dictator Marcos, but there should be no room for waning commitments. The movement to stop violence and deter evil must be carried forward with deep prayers, tough faith, and overflowing hope that good shall prevail if we work for it. With in mind, believe that we could move mountains.