SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union — Gunmen ambushed and killed Judge Mario Anacleto Bañez of RTC Branch 25, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, late afternoon of November 5 in Brgy. Mameltac, San Fernando City, La Union.
He was on his way home onboard his Hyundai Accent when the assailants shot him. Responders rushed him to Bethany Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival. Police have yet to determine the motive.
According to Rappler’s account and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers records, Bañez is the 43rd member of the bar and judiciary killed under the Duterte administration.
The incident happened days after the Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade urged the Supreme Court to probe judges who are dismissing cases against activists accused of being New People’s Army members.
Bañez acquitted community health worker and activist Rachel Mariano of murder charge filed by the military last September 4. The 81st Infantry Battalion – Philippine Army (IBPA) accused Mariano of taking part in a 2017 ambush staged by the New People’s Army in Patiacan, Quirino, Ilocos Sur. One soldier died, and another suffered wounds in the incident.
In his ruling, Bañez said that the “court is not morally convinced” of Mariano’s guilt.
“Her being an activist may have subjected her to suspicions of involvement in some subversive activities. But it has been a long-standing principle that suspicions, however strong, cannot equate with the quantum of proof required by law to support a conviction,” the decision said.
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, the group that assisted Mariano in her case, condemned the incident.
“We strongly condemn this brutal attack on Judge Bañez, which we believe is an attack on the core of the justice system he sought and worked so hard to prevail— fair, just, and noble. A system where those who are denied of rights can find refuge and protection,” the group said in its statement posted on Facebook.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta in a statement called on law enforcers to “to exert their best efforts and be relentless in their investigation for the immediate apprehension of those responsible for this atrocious and dastardly act.”