PNP begins probe into fatal shooting of Davao lawyers

PNP begins probe into fatal shooting of Davao lawyers
Gilda Mahinay-Sapie and Muhaimen Mohammad were reportedly killed by sniper fire.
Philstar.com / File photo

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police has ordered its regional office to launch an investigation into the killing of a lawyer and her husband in Davao City, it said Wednesday. 

Lawyer Hilda Mahinay-Sapie and her husband Muhaimen Mohammad Sapie were reportedly killed by a sniper in front of their residence on July 14. A video of the shooting has since spread on social media.

In a statement sent to media, Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief, said authorities are looking for possible motives for the shooting as well as the identities of the people behind it.

READ: Lawyer, husband shot dead in Davao

"At first glance, it can be seen that this incident was planned so what we are focusing on now are the possible motives and identities of the people involved in the planning of this crime," he said in Filipino.

The couple, who hosted a program where they gave free legal advice over 94.7 Power Radio Davao dxLL, is just the latest in a series of attacks on Filipino lawyers documented during the Duterte administration. 

Before the deaths of the Sapies, the Free Legal Assistance Group had tallied 61 lawyers and judges slain since June 2016, when the chief executive was sworn into office.

In comparison, just 28 were documented between the time of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos to the term of the late president Benigno Aquino III—a period which spanned 44 years.

Authorities said the couple had just finished their radio program  when the crime happened. 

READ: IBP: With lawyers killed and murders unresolved, people will lose trust in justice system

Davao City police have said they are looking at all possible angles for the crime, including the cases on land disputes that the victims handled.

The PNP chief added that authorities have already obtained CCTV footage "which could be of help in the investigation."

“In the meantime, let us wait for the result of the investigation. I'm confident that we'll resolve this,” he said. 

The Department of Justice, which heads the AO 35 Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right of Life, Liberty and Security of Persons, has since offered the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation if needed. 

The Commission on Human Rights has also begun its own probe into the killings. 

— Franco Luna with a report from Kristine Joy Patag and The STAR/Edith Regalado 

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