MANILA — A judge in the Philippine capital was fatally shot Wednesday in her office at Manila’s city hall, the 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 on Wednesday afternoon in her fifth-floor office as Maria Theresa Abadilla, 44, of the city’s Regional Trial Court.
Judge Abadilla was rushed 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 Center Manila.
Amador Rebato, a 42-year-old attorney and chief clerk at the court, was in Judge Abadilla’s office when witnesses heard a gunshot ring out, the mayor’s office said, adding that he is now a suspect in the case. Initial news reports suggested Mr. Rebato committed suicide after shooting Judge Abadilla, but they could not be immediately confirmed.
A possible motive was unclear. So was the way in which the shooter apparently smuggled a weapon into a building that has been under heightened security during the 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 on Wednesday that at the time of the shooting, Judge Abadilla was speaking with Mr. Rebato in her chambers about his performance, “which seems unfavorable.”
Mr. Rebato had been sick with Covid-19, the mayor said, citing a legal researcher who witnessed his conversation with the judge, and had been planning to submit his resignation.
Mr. Rebato “was seen feeling uneasy and shuddering” while being questioned by Judge Abadilla, the mayor’s statement said. He then shot her in the head and “apparently” killed himself with his service firearm, it said.
Judge 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.
The Philippines has a reputation for violence, one that worsened when President Rodrigo Duterte implemented a bloody and chaotic campaign against drugs after taking office in 2016.
Thousands of people have been slain at the hands of the police alone during the campaign, and fear and mistrust have gripped many neighborhoods of Manila and other cities. Yet Mr. Duterte remains broadly popular.
This March, Mr. Duterte locked down the Philippines’ largest and most populous island, Luzon, restricting travel to and from the region, which includes Manila. And a few weeks later, he ordered the police and the military to shoot anyone who protested the lockdown.
“My orders to the police and the military, including to the village chiefs, is that if a commotion breaks out and they put up a fight that puts your life in danger, shoot them dead,” Mr. Duterte said at the time.
Jason Gutierrez reported from Manila, and Mike Ives from Hong Kong.