CEBU CITY: The 44-year-old lawyer of self-confessed drug trader Kerwin Espinosa was killed in an ambush in the North Reclamation Area, shortly after attending a court hearing at the Cebu City Hall before noon on Monday.
Jonnah John Ungab, vice mayor of Ronda town in south Cebu, succumbed to two gunshot wounds on his head (left temple) and was declared dead by Dr. Jaime Ramos of Chong Hua Hospital in Mandaue City at about 2 p.m.
Senior Police Officer 1 Winston Ybañez, Cebu City Police Office homicide investigator, said Ungab attended a hearing for his client Espinosa, son of the late Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.
Espinosa, a self-confessed drug trader, was facing charges of illegal possession of firearms and violation of the election gun ban.
Ybañez said the hearing was scheduled at 8:30 a.m. and Espinosa was acquitted of the illegal possession of firearms charge but was convicted in the gun ban offense.
Ybañez said that after the hearing at about 11:30 a.m., Ungab rode his gray Suzuki Kizashi with his 43-year-old wife who was in front.
The police officer told The Manila Times that when Ungab drove his car outside the Cebu City Hall of Justice (Quimonda IT Center Building), a gunman walked toward the vehicle and shot at the driver’s seat twice. The shooting happened about 15-20 meters away from the court building.
Ybañez said Ungab’s car accelerated, hitting a taxi and speeding toward other vehicles parked at the roadside across Sugbutel Family Hotel.
Ungab’s car hit the Haji taxi driven by 25-year-old Romeo Roxas, who suffered a minor contusion on his head. The car then collided with a parked L-300 van. It was stuck, with the front portion heavily damaged.
Roxas’ taxi was also damaged when Ungab’s car collided with its front bumper. Ungab’s wife, Pearl, was not hurt.
The gunman rode in a getaway scooter driven by a man wearing a helmet. Ybañez said the two men sped toward the port area near the Quimonda IT Center Building.
Police recovered two empty shells of a .45 caliber firearm from the scene.
Ybañez said Ungab was the main target of the killing. Police said work-related and personal grudges as well as drug deals were the possible motives.
Cebu City Police Office administration head Supt. Artemio Ricabo said a manhunt was launched against the suspects. Police were also looking for witnesses and examining CCTV cameras in the area, he said.
A court staff member who requested anonymity said Espinosa was present during his hearing. Espinosa was wearing a bulletproof vest and was escorted by policemen in full-battle gear. He entered the court building right after the flag ceremony.
His father Rolando was killed in his jail cell during a dawn drug raid on November 5, 2016.
The Espinosas were on President Rodrigo Duterte’s list of alleged drug protectors.
RUTH V. ROSELL WITH REPORTS FROM RENAN ALANGILAN AND ROY D.R. NARRA