The public slaying of Rep. Rodel Batocabe last month won’t be the last in this election season. The financial stakes are so high and murder-for-hire so easy. Politicos will resort to guns, goons and gold to get the upper hand. As of the Oct. 2018 deadline for filing of candidacies, 11 town mayors and six vice mayors already had been eliminated from the race with bullets. Most prominent were daylight assassinations of Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan, Batangas, and Vice Mayor Alex Lubigan of Trece Martires, Cavite, five days apart in July.
All were blamed on hit men of political rivals. In most, they were dishonorably discharged soldiers, policemen and militia men, and surrendered communist and separatist rebels.
Inventorying those scalawags would be just the first step to solve and prevent political and other murders. The Armed Forces and National Police have their profiles on file. Their present locations and pursuits must be updated. Such discards and deserters were trained to kill. In need of money, they could turn to that skill, with tools likely stolen from government arsenals (see Gotcha, 7 Jan. 2019: https://www.philstar.com/opinion/2019/01/07/1882887/guns-hire-letting-slip-dregs-war).
For keener law and order, the National Police must reread too the 2010 Zenarosa Commission report. Led by Justice Monina Arevalo Zenarosa, the group was formed in the aftermath of the Maguindanao Massacre of 2009, also during an election season. Its mission was to study private armies and how to eradicate them.
The findings are instructive. For six months, Jan.-Jun. 2010, the commissioners fanned out to election hotspots Abra, Masbate, Lanao del Sur, Marawi area, Davao region, and Zamboanga peninsula. From interviews and analyses they gleaned the motivations of private army patrons, how those are formed and maintained, and why members obey patently illegal orders.
Snippets were released to the media. Bulk of the report was kept confidential because of names and incidents mentioned, some from intelligence units. A copy is with Malacañang. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo received it during the last days of her Presidency; Noynoy Aquino reviewed it during the first weeks of his.
Some recommendations were legislative: tougher gun controls, punishments for private armed groups. Most were for enhancement of old laws, like:
• Command responsibility of police chiefs for private armies and loose firearms in their jurisdictions;
• Recording of and intelligence on politicos’ and henchmen’s registered and unregistered guns, especially long arms;
• Removal from local officials of the authority to appoint and dismiss police chiefs and men, to prevent misplaced loyalty to them;
• Strict monitoring of soldiers, policemen, militia men, provincial jail guards, and other armed officers in any locale;
• Strict enforcement of permits to transport, carry firearms outside residences, mission orders;
• Interdictions through court searches, confiscations, checkpoints;
• Arrest of wanted criminals;
• Do away with perennial amnesties for loose firearms, that only embolden keeping such illegal items till the next announcements.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, advises the hierarchy to stop picking on activist teachers and start disbanding private armies.
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A state employee was arrested Tuesday for making a bomb joke hours before President Duterte was to speak at a Pasay City sports arena. Elsie Castillo had told entrance guards, “Aren’t you going to inspect my bag as there might be a bomb at the bottom?” Police didn’t find it funny and at once booked her for breaking a presidential decree against alarmism.
At the venue that night Duterte ranted against overly strict state auditors. “Let’s kidnap and torture them,” he told the audience of barangay chairmen. His spokesman quickly claimed it was just a joke, don’t you get it?
Speaking before local officials last Dec., the President said, “Kill all those Catholic bishops; all they do is criticize.” The spokesman clapped, as it was just Duterte’s usual hyperbole, so live with it.
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Go-Jek, Indonesia’s largest ride-hailing service, has been barred from operating in the Philippines. So Grab, which gobbled up Uber-Asia early last year, will continue its virtual monopoly of the private cars-for-hire. Five or so accredited competitors are too small to take up even only five percent of the market. Riders still have no free, fair choice.
The Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board rejected Go-Jek because of a new 60/40 equity rule for foreign transport network companies (TNCs). A pre-accreditation committee, headed by LTFRB executive director Samuel Jardin, reportedly junked the application last Dec. 20. It was filed by Velox Technology, Go-Jek’s Philippine subsidiary.
The Philippine Competition Commission might wish to look into the issue. Grab and Uber, both foreigners, had been allowed into Manila in 2013-2014 because LTFRB said then that TNCs were “new forms of transport services.” A Dept. of Transportation order was issued in June 2018 authorizing LTFRB to regulate TNC fares. But it quietly designated them as “public utilities subject to the 60/40 equity rule.” Then-LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada expressed apprehensions during a congressional hearing in Nov. 2018 that there were no public consultations. She allegedly found out about the new classification only when Jardin began to object to Grab’s re-accreditation. Grab eventually passed, but not Go-Jek.
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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).
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