Law of averages
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - July 11, 2018 - 12:00am

Over the weekend, I had a very interesting online chat with a former election official triggered by the latter’s tweet on the spate of assassinations of local government officials. In his post last Saturday, @GoyYLarrazabal posted this comment: “In a span of six days, two Mayors, one Vice Mayor and councilors Councilors were ambushed/murdered in the Philippines…Several ordinary citizens were also killed...”

Now a private citizen, former Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal is very active in his Twitter account. In fact, he has more than 26.8K followers and I am one of them.

He was actually commenting on @iampinglacson Twitter post earlier that day. Obviously, it is the Twitter account of Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, who is also active on social media. In his post, Lacson cited: “Two Faces of News: Devaluation of the peso and the devaluation of life - how much more the Ph dropped and how many more persons dropped dead.”

Interjecting into their thread of tweet chats, I posted my own take on the issue: “In the Phl, the best election climate indicator is uptick in political assassinations as the easiest way to remove rivals out of the picture…that’s why political dynasties persist to reign in our country.”

@GoyYLarrazabal: “Wait…Aren’t we supposed to be safer now?”

Me: “No one is safe in politics since time immemorial.”

@GoyYLarrazabal: “Yes, but six elected officials killed in one week? I think that’s out of the norm. We’re supposed to be safer now?”

 As one popular cliché goes, that’s the $64 question posed to our law enforcement authorities, principally to the Philippine National Police (PNP).

This is not to denigrate the local officials who lost their lives in their line of work as public servants. One life lost is still one life lost. There is certainly no justification why assassins could get away with their heinous crimes with obvious brazenness. Precisely, this is why it has given the public impression or perception – rightly or wrongly – of the seeming impunity these criminals can get away.

Mostly committed by assassins riding motorcycles in tandem, it appears they could not care less if there are closed circuit-television (CCTV) cameras. Some of these assassins are so bold to commit their murderous plots as they pump bullets into their targets in the presence of potential eyewitnesses.

As of this writing yesterday, these assassinations have not been solved yet by our law enforcement authorities.

Ironically, many of these crimes – as they were taking place – were captured in CCTVs. Sadly, criminals go scot-free.

The assassinations of local officials came at the heels of local parish priests being killed one after the other. At least, in one of the three killings, the case of a Nueva Ecija priest is almost solved, if we are to believe the latest police report.

These murder cases – for whatever motives or reasons the victims were felled by assassins’ bullets – definitely challenges the PNP leadership now headed by Director General Oscar Albayalde. At the outset, Albayalde ordered all the PNP regional, provincial and territorial units to intensify police visibility, random checkpoints, and focused law enforcement operations to prevent the commission of election-related violence.

Such high-profile crimes bring to fore questions on how such high-powered firearms and handguns proliferate and used by criminals on the loose. Apparently there are gun-for-hire groups that might be behind the recent assassinations.

Based on PNP records, at least 16 mayors and vice mayors have already been killed since July 2016, the latest of which were the murders of Tanauan City, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili and Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija Mayor Ferdinand Bote that took place in two consecutive days. From their evaluation, Albayalde disclosed, police investigators do not see any pattern which could indicate that the killings of Halili, Bote and Lubigan were related or connected to each other.

The only common thread among the victims is that they were all elected officials who, before their assassinations, were reportedly running for another term in the coming May 2019 elections. In the specific case of slain Mayor Halili, he was among those reportedly included in the list of President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called “narco-politicians.”

Ten months before the 2019 mid-term elections in May next year, Comelec official spokesman James Jimenez noted with concern the gun-related crimes against elected officials. Thus, Jimenez made a very logical suggestion that the Comelec may impose a nationwide gun ban much earlier than the election campaign period.

Jimenez conceded these might be politically motivated crimes targeting candidates in the upcoming mid-term elections in our country. Thus, the Comelec spokesman expressed fears over the possibility that our mid-term elections may turn bloody unless otherwise checked this early.

The history of Philippine politics is replete with many cases of election-related crimes. The election campaign becomes so intense that some would take to the extreme of eliminating their rivals out of the political race. Jimenez though noted with optimism that election-related violence reported during the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls held last May have declined by over 50 percent.

Hopefully, the law of averages would be carried all the way until next year’s elections.

*      *      *

Oops. In my column last Friday (July 6), I slipped in identifying Gigi Bocanegra, senior vice president of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) served as officer-in-charge before President Duterte appointed Atty. Jesus Clint Aranas as GSIS president and general manager in November last year. It was Nora Malubay-Saludares, SVP of GSIS who served as OIC at GSIS for more than a year. Mea culpa.

Incidentally, Social Security System (SSS) president and chief executive officer, Emmanuel Dooc is our featured guest in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay today at Café Adriatico in Remedios Circle, Malate.

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