QUICK RESPONSE. Police operatives arrive at the crime scene minutes after two shots were fired at a car along the busy Sinsuat Avenue in Cotabato City on Saturday night (Aug. 6, 2022). The parked vehicle of human rights lawyer Ariff Lao, director of the Commission on Human Rights in Maguindanao, bore two bullet holes during the drive-by shooting. (Photo courtesy of Ferdinandh Cabrera – Cotabato City Media Group)

COTABATO CITY – Authorities are determining if the human rights lawyer in Maguindanao was the intended target when his parked car was shot twice by still unidentified attackers over the weekend.

Colonel Querubin Manalang, city police director, identified Monday the owner of the vehicle as lawyer Ariff Lao, the Maguindanao provincial director of the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission (BHRC).

“At this time, we consider the case as indiscriminate firing,” said Manalang, on the shooting of Lao’s car along Sinsuat Avenue around 7 p.m. Saturday.

Lao and his pregnant wife had just alighted from their car to buy hamburgers at a roadside restaurant when they heard two gunshots.

“If he was indeed the target, he would have been shot as he alighted from his vehicle,” Manalang said in the vernacular.

Manalang said it was “too early to tell if indeed he was the target, we suspect it to be indiscriminate firing, our investigation is ongoing.”

Quoting witnesses, Mayor Bruce Matabalao said two men onboard a motorbike passed by the car and opened fire. Lao’s wife is a relative of the mayor.

The driver's side of Lao’s car bore two bullet holes.

Police sought the help of business establishments who could share security camera footage to shed light on the incident.

Meanwhile, the BHRC issued a statement Monday strongly condemning the possible attempt on the life of Lao.

“This attempt on the life of human rights defender has no place in a just and civil Bangsamoro society,” it said, even as it urged authorities to probe the incident and “hold accountable the perpetrators”.

The BHRC said it will conduct a parallel investigation to seek truth for the redress of one of its personnel. (PNA)