Impunity and uncertainty amid the pandemic
GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The year 2020 just passed leaving many communities still experiencing high levels of uncertainty and insecurity. These uncertainties are associated with the fear of being among the COVID-19 statistics, either as a positive case, or worse, death. Certainly this is not the kind of inclusion we want to happen in our communities and society as a whole.
But alongside this fear is the high level of insecurity brought about by the spate of unsolved killings in different parts of the country.
Here in General Santos City, the last month of 2020 was marked with several extrajudicial killings. One high-profile victim was Isedrito P. Cañete, a village chief of Glan Padidu, in Sarangani Province, but was a resident of Gensan. He was killed last Dec. 9, at 10 a.m. at a busy intersection in Barangay Lagao. He was 56 years old.
Since the latter part of 2019, both broadcast and print media have reported at least 30 people gunned down by riding-tandem assailants, and the common murder weapon was a .45 caliber pistol. In a news report last year, City Councilor Josemar Edmar Yumang had blamed Gensan City Police Director Col. Aden Lagradante as the “culprit” for being remiss in his duties, especially in “not undertaking drastic measures to stop the motorcycle-riding suspects.”
The spate of killings continued until the last three weeks of December 2020. Motorcycle-riding suspects killed six more victims who were quite young and very active in entrepreneurial ventures. One victim was a 27-year-old businesswoman who was gunned down near her small milk tea/coffee joint. A common descriptive note of the perpetrator/s was featured in the news reports on the killings: assailants were riding-tandem, and the act was done in broad daylight, in places that are not overly crowded but with passersby at any time of the day.
In an interview at one local radio station, the chief of a police station in one of the city’s barangays said that they have already started the investigative process in the killings of those within his area of supervision. But so far, no apprehensions have been made on alleged suspects. Many residents posted on social media how worried they were over this situation in the city. One said it’s likely that there won’t be any investigation since the killings have been classified as “drug-related,” or, in the case of the female victim, a “love triangle.”
But whatever the circumstances or reasons of the killings are, all these must be subjected to a stringent investigatory process, so that perpetrators will be held accountable. As the law enforcement pillar of the criminal justice system, police authorities are mandated to do the following: investigate crimes, collect testimonies from credible witnesses, gather available and relevant forensic evidence, and apprehend perpetrators/offenders. If this first pillar in the criminal justice system fails in such tasks, then no offender will be brought to justice at all, and crimes will remain unsolved. This breakdown in the criminal justice system can pave the way for impunity to reign, with the laws being broken by offenders who go scot-free instead of being placed behind bars.
Uncertainties associated with the pandemic also continue, with many daily wage earners complaining of the economic crunch they are feeling now, with limited possibilities and opportunities for gainful employment, especially among those engaged in the local transportation sector. Many jeepney drivers, for example, have tried to explore new ways of earning money. Sadly, options for decent and respectable work among blue-collar workers are limited, and even nil at this time. This has pushed some people to resort to flawed strategies for coping, like becoming guns for hire. The very source of uncertainty among the poor can also be their source of security, even if it means promoting a culture of impunity in society.
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