EDITORIAL - Impunity

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Impunity

Another day, another candidate for the barangay elections gunned down. Erasmo Hernandez, captain of Barangay Poblacion Zone 10 in Taal, Batangas was standing in front of the barangay hall early yesterday morning when a motorcycle pulled up and one of the riders opened fire. Hernandez, who was seeking reelection in the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections or BSKE in October, died in a hospital from multiple gunshot wounds. The motorcycle used by the killers was later found abandoned by the roadside in a nearby barangay.

Hernandez is the third village chief seeking reelection who has been shot dead since the Commission on Elections opened the period for filing certificates of candidacy for the BSKE on Aug. 28. Just hours after filing his COC for reelection on that first day, barangay captain Alex Repato was shot dead in front of his house in San Jose, Libon town in Albay.

Last Sunday night, Jul-Asmad Anjawang, who was seeking reelection as chairman of Barangay Pamansaan in Mabuhay town, Zamboanga Sibugay, was shot dead along with former barangay councilman Jamar Anjawang Mawajil. The two had attended a wedding in another village and had stopped at a gas station on their way home when they were waylaid. Two others were wounded in the attack, one of them a candidate for village councilman in Pamansaan.

Among the suspects is S/Sgt. Brazir Aming Hamid, a member of the Zamboanga City Police traffic enforcement unit, who is reportedly a relative of the victims. Hamid, who has been arrested, is allegedly feuding with the victims over land ownership.

In Albay, residents have expressed concern over the armed attacks on barangay officials in Libon, noting that Repato’s case was the fourth in the village in recent months.

The latest deadly assaults highlight the impunity that has been reinforced in this country over the years. An election gun ban is in effect, yet the armed attacks show the ease of obtaining guns and defying the ban. Despite the ubiquity of closed-circuit television cameras in public places, it has become easy to conceal identities, especially when riding a motorcycle and using crash helmets and loose jackets.

Motorcycles have become the getaway vehicle of choice – highly maneuverable for a quick escape, easily stolen for illegal use, and easily abandoned. And finally, perpetrators clearly believe they can get away with murder. Dispelling this belief must be a priority of those tasked to keep the public safe.

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