Tragic deaths at Manila City Hall

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    THE coronavirus 2019 pandemic has a way of focusing attention to itself when people start to lose focus or slide down to complacency. Sometimes, the tragic illness induces more tragedy, if the initial results of the investigation on the deaths at Manila City Hall Tuesday afternoon are to be believed.

    The facts came in as a jolt to a Manila public that was already bracing for the coming strong typhoon named Ulysses. Judge Ma. Theresa Abadilla, 44, of Regional Trial Court Branch 45, was shot and killed by her sala’s clerk of court, who later committed suicide, inside her chamber on the fifth floor of the City Hall building.

    The assailant, lawyer Amador Rebato Jr., 42, committed suicide after the killing, so that we do not know for sure why he did the attack. Colleagues said before the tragic events, the judge and Rebato were talking about his “unfavorable” work performance. This was mentioned in a report by Lt. Col. Arsenio Riparip, chief of the City Security Force, to Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso. It was also established that Rebato was “uneasy and shuddering” while being quizzed by the judge about his poor performance at work, which started when he reportedly contracted the coronavirus and he was diagnosed with COVID-19 which led him to consider resigning from his job.

    ‘Security in the courts and at the Manila City Hall building should also be tightened, because the possession of firearms inside city hall is usually controlled…’

    This unfortunate incident puts to the fore the little-noticed effects of the pandemic, but is equally important as it is damaging. The COVID-19 pandemic has cause untold miseries in some people who had been stressed to the limit and consequently, suffered various forms of mental illness. Severe worry, hallucination, unbearable stress, and suicide have become common occurrences since February when the COVID-19 outbreak began. Rebato could be just the latest victim of this mental imbalance that is attributable to the pandemic, and Judge Abadilla, a hapless victim.

    Both the medical and judicial communities have been served notice by this incident that there should be measures instituted to avoid a repeat of such. Security in the courts and at the Manila City Hall building should also be tightened, because the possession of firearms inside city hall is usually controlled, and the Manila Police and the Civil Security Force are there to safe-keep all firearms carried by visitors, guests and organic personnel. The clerk of court’s access to his firearm at that time should be looked into.

    The top officials of the Supreme Court, past and present, have expressed their condolences to the family of the lady judge. Her death underscores the intrinsic risks on the shoulders of one working in the judiciary, especially in a courthouse where contending parties sometimes turn violent.

    Mayor Isko Moreno should also look into reviving the plan of his predecessors of constructing a Hall of Justice for Manila, which will decongest City Hall and make the task of overseeing peace and order in the place manageable.

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