NUPL: Murder of Bicol paralegal linked to attacks on rights lawyer

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MANILA, Philippines — A human rights lawyers’ organization raised the alarm over the murder of a paralegal in Gubat, Sorsogon by gunmen it said “are suspected to be members of the military” and linked this to attacks, including an attempt on the life, of their second vice president for Luzon.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said Edwin Pura, 49, was shot dead by two gunmen past midnight of October 25, Wednesday, at a restaurant in Barangay Paadijon where he sought shelter after sensing he was being tailed.

But the group said the murder was “also an attack” on lawyer Ron Ely Espinosa, for whom Pura worked as a paralegal.

The NUPL said Espinosa had been the target of a failed assassination bid in the last week of August. However, the presence of clients and media in Espinosa’s office caused the would-be killer to back off.

“Last year, Espinosa also learned that his name was in the PNP drug watch list but shrugged it off knowing for himself that there is no truth to the alleged drug links but considered it as a part of harassment against him as a human rights lawyer,” the group added.

The NUPL said Espinosa and Pura have been handling human rights cases since 2013 and most recently had joined a team that searched for missing farmers in Quezon’s Bondoc Peninsula, on whose behalf the lawyer also filed a petition for a writ of amparo.

It called the murder of Pura and the attempt on Espinosa’s life “part of the state’s systematic pattern of harassment against its dissenters,” noting that in 2006, human rights lawyer Gil Gogol was shot dead near a military detachment in Gubat.

But “despite previous unresolved cases of killings,” the NUPL challenged authorities “to take the appropriate action” on Pura’s killing and the threats against Espinosa.