DOJ orders NBI to investigate murder of Davao Occidental prosecutor

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“There should be no place in society for such barbaric acts, completely repugnant and sinister, violating the most basic aspects of humanity and life,” says Justice Secretary Boying Remulla after the murder of Deputy Provincial Prosecutor Eleanor dela Peña in Digos City

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the murder of a prosecutor in Digos City, Davao del Sur.

“I have directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a parallel investigation into this ruthless killing and to take immediate action to ensure the safety of those committed to upholding the rule of law and advancing justice in our country,” Justice Department Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said in a statement Tuesday, June 11.

Remulla said the Department of Justice condemned “in the strongest terms” the murder of Assistant Provincial Attorney Eleanor dela Peña of the Davao Occidental Prosecutor’s Office, who was murdered on Monday, June 10. The Department of Justice monitors prosecutors through the National Attorney’s Office.

“The Department of Justice family is absolutely devastated by the tragic death of our colleague at the vanguard of justice who was recently shot dead in Digos City. There should be no place in society for such barbaric acts, completely disgusting and sinister, violating the most fundamental aspect of humanity and life,” Remulla said.

In addition to the Department of Justice, the Davao City branch of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) also condemned the incident. Dela Peña was a former president of the chapter.

“The heinous act of violence against a dedicated public servant and former chapter chairwoman not only shocks our legal community, but also undermines the very foundations of justice and the rule of law that Prosecutor Dela Peña has tirelessly defended throughout her career,” IBP Davao City Chapter said.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) has expressed outrage over the prosecutor’s murder and noted continued attacks on the legal profession. The NUPL said it had recorded 43 cases of attacks on lawyers since July 2022, including six attempted murders.

“The murders of lawyers have created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation among members of the bar. If perpetrators are not held accountable, the threat of violence discourages lawyers from taking on certain professional responsibilities and makes it more difficult for them to carry out their duties effectively,” NUPL said.

“We are outraged by the question: ‘When will these attacks on the legal profession end?’ remains merely rhetorical. However, we do not want to live in fear and demand our safety, knowing that the independent exercise of our profession is crucial to maintaining the rule of law and justice,” he added.

Dela Peña was killed while driving her vehicle in Digos City late Monday afternoon.

According to the police, the prosecutor’s half-brother, Arnel, was arrested during the chase. An investigation revealed that the attack was caused by a land dispute.

Dela Peña was the fourth lawyer killed under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the 162nd lawyer killed under late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, according to combined data from Rappler, the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, NUPL and Free Legal. Help Group.

Before Dela Peña, lawyer Maria Saniata Liwliwa Gonzales Alzate was shot dead in broad daylight in September 2023. She died in her car parked right in front of their house on Santiago Street, Zone 2, in Bangued, Abra.

In February 2024, prosecutors brought murder charges against the suspect behind Alzate’s murder. –