Manila court's chief clerk fatally shoots judge in her office, then shoots himself

MANILA (NEW YORK TIMES) – A judge in the Philippine capital was fatally shot Wednesday (Nov 11) in her office at Manila’s city hall, authorities said, in a burst of violence that was notable even for a country where shootings are prevalent.

In a statement, the mayor’s office identified the judge, who was shot in her fifth-floor office, as Judge Maria Theresa Abadilla, 44, of the city’s Regional Trial Court.

Ms Abadilla was taken to a hospital after the shooting and proclaimed dead on arrival, according to Major Jhun Bay of the Manila police and two doctors at the emergency department of Medical Centre Manila.

Amador Rebato, a 42-year-old attorney and chief clerk at the court, was in Ms Abadilla’s office when witnesses heard a gunshot ring out, the mayor’s office said, adding that Rebato is now a suspect in the case.

The clerk shot himself after shooting Ms Abadilla, the police said; local reports said he, too, had died.

A possible motive was unclear.

So was the way in which the gunman apparently smuggled a weapon into a building that has been under heightened security during the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to nearly 400,000 cases in the Philippines – the second-highest total in South-east Asia behind Indonesia, according to a New York Times database.

Manila’s mayor, Mr Francisco Domagoso, said in a statement on Wednesday that at the time of the shooting, Ms Abadilla was speaking with Rebato in her chambers about his performance, “which seems unfavourable”.

Rebato had been sick with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and had been planning to submit his resignation, the mayor said, citing a legal researcher who witnessed his conversation with the judge.

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Rebato “was seen feeling uneasy and shuddering” while being questioned by the judge, the mayor’s statement said.

He then shot her in the head and “apparently” killed himself with his service firearm, it said.

Captain Henry Navarro of the Manila police homicide division, which took over the case, said Rebato had been accompanied to the meeting by a sister, who is also a lawyer.

Ms Abadilla is the eighth judge in the country to be killed during the Duterte administration, according to a database maintained by Rappler, a Philippine news site.

She is one of 51 people killed in the legal profession, including judges, prosecutors and lawyers, according to the database.

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