• The Star Staff

Judge is shot and killed in her office at Manila’s City Hall

By Jason Gutierrez and Mike Ives

A judge in the Philippine capital was fatally shot Wednesday 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 Wednesday afternoon in her fifth-floor office, as Maria Theresa Abadilla, 44, of the city’s Regional Trial Court.

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

Amador Rebato, a 42-year-old attorney and chief clerk at the court, was in Abadilla’s office when witnesses heard a gunshot ring out, the mayor’s office said, adding that Rebato was now a suspect in the case. The clerk shot himself after shooting Abadilla, the police said; local reports said that 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 Southeast Asia behind Indonesia, according to a New York Times database.

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

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.

Rebato “was seen feeling uneasy and shuddering” while being questioned by Abadilla, the mayor’s statement said. He then shot her in the head and “apparently” killed himself with his service firearm, it said.

Capt. 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 was also a lawyer.

“Rebato had been sick of COVID and suffered depression after recovering,” the officer told reporters. “As a result, he missed work deadlines. He was planning to resign, which was why he went to speak with Abadilla.”

The officer said there was no heated argument, although disagreements were heard and Rebato’s hands were shaking.

“Fifteen minutes into the meeting, he took the gun that was inside a bag on his lap and shot Abadilla in the head,” he said. “He shot himself after.”

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.