No impunity

The Philippine National Police (PNP) deems the July 3, 2018 assassination of Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija Mayor Ferdinand Bote solved after the arrest of two suspected gunmen that led to the unmasking of the supposed brains behind the daring daylight murder.

Police investigators point to contractor Christian Saquilabon as the mastermind and the P96-million construction project at the Minalungao Eco-Tourism Park in Nueva Ecija as the motive behind the hit. The police said the late mayor reportedly gave Saquilabon a hard time securing permits for the project.

The plot to kill Mayor Bote was pieced together by the police after a checkpoint in Camarines Sur of a vehicle tied to the assassination led to the arrest of suspects Florencio Suarez and Robert Gumacay.

Predictably Mayor Bote’s killing, captured by CCTV cameras, triggered a frenzy of statements from the opposition accusing the administration of fostering a culture of impunity in the country bred by its relentless war against illegal drugs and criminality.

It did not help that Bote’s killing occurred just a day after an even more brazen and bolder assassination of Tanauan Mayor Antonio Halili by a single bullet fired from a distance by a skilled marksman during the singing of the National Anthem.

The shock value of the Halili’s killing multiplied when video footage of his murder circulated widely in social media.

Just a few days later, two other local officials fell victims to assassins’ bullets. Vice Mayor Alex Lubigan of Trece Martires in Cavite was shot dead aboard his vehicle on July 7 while Vice Mayor Al-Rashid Mohammad Alit of Sapa-Sapa town in Tawi-Tawi was slain by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Zamboanga City on July 11.

Fending off the shrill voices of its critics, the administration vowed that justice will be served in all these cases.
By dint of their painstaking work by showing that the wheels of justice grind inexorably with the solution of the Bote murder, the PNP silenced claims about a culture of impunity.

And it appears the PNP is making progress, too, towards the solution of the Halili assassination. According to PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde, the investigators are pursuing not only forensic evidence but also three persons of interest in the case.

For these accomplishments, the PNP deserves our commendation. But lest complacency sets in, the PNP should further step up its drive not only against known gun-for-hire, gun-running syndicates and local warlords.

Such preemptive action gains even more significance as the nation draws near another election year that would be heralded in October with the filing of the certificates of candidacy. Crime data show incidence of violence flares up during election season.

For instance, at least 50 people, or an average of nearly one person every two days, were killed during the 119-day period from January to May in the 2016 national elections.

In the same period, the PNP has recorded 148 cases of “election incident concerns” in 18 regions nationwide. Out of these cases, 28 were validated to be election-related.

The PNP should ensure that violence and intimidation would not go unchecked during the election period as this would only serve to subvert the will of the people as expressed through their votes.

It is equally crucial too for every citizen to cooperate with the authorities, maintain sobriety and refrain from propagating unfounded allegations that are detrimental to public interest.

That includes knee-jerk reactions from politicians who would not let facts get in the way of a catchy and media-friendly quote. Oftentimes when hard data come in, such reactions are left with no knee to support them, leaving only a jerk behind.

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