Rest in peace, Atty. Jal: Visiting Filipino lawyer tragically shot in Philadelphia


Photos from Facebook / John Albert Laylo and Leah Laylo

Filipino lawyer, Atty. John Albert “Jal” Laylo and his mother were set to continue their vacation in the United States when horror struck.

While Jal and his mother, Leah Laylo, were riding an Uber in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to get to their Chicago flight, assailants pulled up beside the vehicle’s driver’s side and fired multiple bullets at the victims at around 4 AM US time (4 PM in Philippine time).

Per Philippine Consul General in New York Elmer Cato, Jal’s mother was struck with shrapnel while the 35-year-old lawyer was shot in the head.

With his mother sustaining injuries, Jal was brought to the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. Laylo’s sister, Althea, had cleared up reports that Jal had died from the shooting.

“My brother isn’t medically pronounced as brain dead. He has no more reflexes, but there is still one part of his brain that is functioning,” Althea wrote on Twitter.

Photo from John Albert Laylo’s Facebook page

She also shared that Jal had squeezed his mom’s hand three times while in the coma: “We were told he only had less than 5% chance of surviving. But now, miracles are starting to happen. He squeezed my mom’s hand 3 times and started mildly breathing on his own.”

A few hours later, Althea confirmed her brother’s tragic demise and shared that Jal will be an organ donor as his “final mission.”

“He will do anything in his power to help. So as one final mission, he will be donating his organs to those who need it. My brother may no longer be with us, but I shall find peace in the thought that at least somewhere in the world, a piece of him is alive and beating,” she added.

Per NBC Philadelphia, authorities are on the lookout for surveillance video of the incident. They have not released information on suspects, nor closing the case if Laylo’s shooting was targeted.

With the rise of Asian and Asian American violence in the United States, Jal’s tragic death is a stark reminder of the shooting injustices seen in the country. We look beyond the statistic and get to know the young soul lost in the unforeseen attack.

Jal pursued higher education outside the country

Jal was a consistent achiever in the academe. After passing the bar in 2014 from the De La Salle University College of Law, Jal knew that he had bigger dreams to pursue in the field of law, so he attained his Master of Law in International Business Law (now Global Business Law and Regulation) from the Central European University (CEU) in Vienna.

Jal during his graduation from CEU. Photo from John Albert Laylo’s Facebook page

In DLSU he graduated in the Top Ten of the pioneer batch and was the recipient of the Consistent Scholar award. Prior to becoming a Juris Doctor, Jal received his undergraduate degree at the University of the Philippines where he was also a consistent Dean’s Lister.

At CEU, Jal excelled as one of the University’s representatives in the 26th Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. The international competition brings forth students from law schools all around the world to simulate court hearings.

Jal was one of the four representatives who made it to the elimination rounds in 2019.

Jal with his teammates during the 2019 International Commercial Arbitration Moot. Photo from Central Europen University

Atty. Chel Diokno was also one of Jal’s law professors at DLSU. Diokno sent his thoughts to the Laylo family upon news of his passing.

He was active in local government law

Before pursuing his Master’s in Law, Jal also served the country on a grassroots level by working under the offices of former Senator Manuel Roxas II and Senator Leila de Lima.

He also worked as a Supervising Legislative Lawyer for the Senate in 2018.

In a Tweet, de Lima also shared her condolences to the bereaved Laylo family: “He was so young and still full of dreams. He was part of my legislative team for two years before he left to pursue his Masters.”

During the 2022 national elections, Jal volunteered as the official counsel of former presidential aspirant and outgoing vice president, Leni Robredo, on the board of canvassers for Makati City. Althea had shared Jal’s ID during the campaign.

Photo from Althea Laylo’s Twitter page

Jal served as a Legal Manager of Desarrolos Terrestres, a telecommunications infrastructure company in the Philippines.

He had a love for traveling

In a Facebook post after his death, Jal’s mother lamented the passing of her son and the overseas trip they didn’t get to finish.

“Before he left he made sure we had fun! But never did I imagine or dream that its almost the end of our vacation will be like this!” Leah wrote. “We travelled together and we are supposed to go home together! I will bring him home soon in a box!”

Jal during a 2019 trip to Paris, France. Photo from John Albert Laylo’s Facebook page

“My son has a lot of dreams a lot of plans, hopes and everything! He’s gone now. I can’t explain the pain the heaviness I have in my heart. It took me hours to post this because still I can’t believe this happened!”

His mother also pointed out that her son’s penchant for travelling: “You really love to travel huh that you chose to die here in US!”

Althea also penned a message for her late brother.

“To my kuya, you are the love of my life and no one can take that away from you… I will chase after my dreams as you have always pushed me to. I’m not gonna let you down,” she wrote.