By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a Senate investigation into the continuing attacks and killings of local chief executives across the country as she condemned the murder of Calbayog City Mayor Ronaldo Aquino.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 683, De Lima underscored the need to identify the gaps in law enforcement, attaining justice for all victims and ending the culture of impunity, especially among law enforcement agencies.
“The killing of Mayor Ronaldo Aquino is but the latest local official to fall, victim, to the spate of killings committed against local chief executives across the country,” said De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad.
“The series of extrajudicial killings waged against local chief executives and the subsequent failure of the government to take meaningful action to give justice to the victims are part of a pattern of and systematic violations of human rights in the country, including by state agents,” she added.
Aquino and his two drivers were killed on March 8, in what was initially reported as an ambush, but members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) later claimed that it was a shootout between the mayor’s team and the police.
Samar 1st District Representative Edgar Mary Sarmiento, however, refuted the PNP’s statement claiming that the mayor’s escorts were the first to fire at the officers that were tailing their vehicle, revealing that the police were already waiting for Aquino’s vehicle at Laboyao Bridge in Barangay Lonoy, Calbayog City before the shooting incident.
Sarmiento likewise questioned the claims of PNP that they were merely conducting a “Red Teaming inspection” on the operational readiness of PNP units in the area – that they were role-playing as the enemy in security drills – considering that the narcotics officers had high-powered firearms with them.
Moreover, it was reported that there were witnesses who claimed that the incident began with the assailants opening fire on Aquino’s vehicle.
“This bloody incident is not the first of its kind,” De Lima said, pointing out that Aquino’s death has brought to 25 the tally of mayors and vice mayors killed since 2016.
“The events of the past few years have shown that the police under this administration has all but eliminated peaceful surrender of anyone that they unilaterally and unlawfully determined to be their enemies… Until when will our people remain silent against these abuses?,” the lady Senator from Bicol said in an earlier statement.
Amid the alarming series of targeted killings to local chief executives across the country, De Lima stressed that “it is imperative for the Senate to conduct a thorough, independent, and impartial inquiry to determine, once and for all, the concrete efforts the government has undertaken and is undertaking to stop the killings and seek answers to the reported illegal activities of alleged rogue police personnel.” (AI/MTVN)