In less than a month, there were at least four assassination cases of local politicians. All four were not related to each other. Thus, our authorities from the Philippine National Police (PNP) deemed each as “isolated” incident that happened in separate dates and places. As far as President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (PBBM) is concerned, all four incidents were apparently due to “purely political” reasons since all the victims were elected government officials.
On Feb. 17, Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. was injured while four of his aides were killed in an ambush in Maguing town. Two days later, Aparri, Cagayan Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda and five others died in an ambush in Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya. On Feb. 22, Mayor Ohto Caumbo Montawal of Datu Montawal, Maguindanao del Sur was wounded in an ambush in Pasay City.
And then the “massacre” took place last Saturday. Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo was gunned down by several heavily armed men wearing high-grade bulletproofed vests, and in battle uniforms. They struck at Degamo who was distributing “ayuda” to his constituents right inside the premises of his residence. At least nine other individuals getting their “ayuda” were mowed down and killed by the same hired assassins.
Degamo was installed late last year by the Commission on Elections as the real winner of the last May 9, 2022 gubernatorial elections. The Comelec unseated the declared winner Gov. Henry Pryde Teves. Even when there was no mention yet of the mastermind behind the deadly attack on Degamo, Negros Oriental Rep. Arnie Teves, a brother of the ousted Governor, came forward to deny his imagined involvement.
Calling himself “Kuya Arnie” in a video he posted on his Facebook account, Rep.Teves revealed he was abroad for a “stem cell” procedure when the incident took place. He claimed his own political clan faces the same threats to their lives and appealed to President Marcos for the return of his duly licensed firearms and other guns earlier seized from him by the PNP.
PBBM described the Degamo slay as “shocking” and “terrifying” to him. And if I may add, the CCTV video of the incident is so scary and repulsive not just to the victims and their families but also to the entire Filipino nation. Asked how he will move forward after this latest incident, PBBM announced his marching orders to all the law enforcement arms of the government to start identifying all the known “hot spots” around the country and dismantle all private armed groups.
However, at least two of these four politics-driven killings involved men allegedly wearing either police or military uniforms.
The mild-mannered demeanor of PBBM though did not evoke fear to the perpetrators of these crimes. Or, many of us have not gotten over with the bombast and braggadocio of former President Rodrigo Duterte. The former Davao City Mayor minced no words, not to mention expletives that went along with his usual extemporaneous statements: “My orders: Get them dead or alive.” Especially whenever ex-Pres. Duterte passionately talked about his deadly anti-illegal drugs campaign.
Even after he stepped down from office at Malacanang, Mr. Duterte is still facing alleged “crimes against humanity” that were filed before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Known Duterte political foes and staunch human rights advocates groups, both here and abroad, initiated this class suit before the ICC at The Hague. However, the wily and shrewd politician that he is, ex-President Duterte withdrew from the ICC the membership of the Philippines.
Nonetheless, the ICC still went on with its case against Mr. Duterte who is now enjoying his retirement at his family residence in Davao City. Implicated with his ICC case is former top cop turned Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa who initially carried out Mr. Duterte’s bloody war against illegal drugs as the latter’s first PNP chief.
Like his former Commander-in-chief, Dela Rosa remains adamant the justice system in the Philippines remains working and therefore the government should not surrender its sovereign power to the ICC. Speaking during our Kapihan sa Manila Bay last Wednesday, Sen.Dela Rosa reiterated the ICC cannot pursue the alleged “crimes against humanity” against him for the more than 6,000 deaths and killings during their watch together on the anti-drug war.
Dela Rosa swears he has no regrets when he carried out the all out war against illegal drugs as then PNP chief. The Senator pointed to the fact that millions of lives saved, especially the Filipino youth, give him comfort and clear conscience. “I am not scared. God knows what I was doing,” he added.
He credited much the former President for fully backing the police and military doing their jobs in accordance with the laws but got caught into messy human rights accusations. Such presidential gesture, he pointed out, did not only inspire but also encourage the men in the field to perform their tasks to their best of abilities.
Asked about the spate of assassination of local politicians, Dela Rosa could only wish the incumbent PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. to adopt a “one-strike” policy against police officials where the crimes took place. As former PNP chief, Dela Rosa adopted this tough command responsibility principle in removing from assigned post the highest police officer where the high-profile crime took place. He recalled he even implemented the re-assignment of the entire police force to Basilan and strife-torn areas in the country as part of his disciplinary methods.
A member of the pro-administration majority at the Senate, Dela Rosa declined to compare the anti-crime campaign strategy of PBBM with that of ex-Pres. Duterte.
But methinks, PBBM could learn a thing or two from Mr. Duterte’s style. He could practice in front of the mirror on how to appear more commanding and authoritative to send shivers to the spines of police and military Generals down to the patrol cops and foot soldiers.
As the Commander-in-chief of the police and the military establishments, PBBM needs to get tough, not just by showing up in pilot jumpsuit uniform as he did yesterday at the Air Force Base at Clark.