ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Killings and violence are becoming more rampant in Zamboanga City, according to Fr Albert Alejo SJ of the anti-corruption group Ehem!.
“Lumalaki yung numero at dumarami na ang namamatay,” Alejo told Rappler Thursday, July 4. (The numbers are growing and many people are getting killed.)
According to Zamboanga Today Online, from January 2012 to January 2013, at least 180 deaths and critically wounded have been recorded.
This means that one person is killed every two days in Zamboanga City.
From January to June 2013, the number of killings has risen to 250.
The police attributed the killings mainly to family feuds and grudges, but most cases remain unresolved.
“Kapag nag-aaway ang mga tao…instead na magsapakan sila, nagbabarilan na lang,” Alejo added. (When people fight…instead of punching each other, they shoot each other.)
Alejo said the situation is becoming alarming because violence is slowly becoming part of the culture.
“Dalawa ang tanong diyan. Una, bakit ang daming insidenteng nangyayari? Pangalawa, bakit nauulit nang nauulit?” he asked. (Two questions come to mind. First, why are there so many incidents? Second, why do they keep on happening?)
The most recent incident was the killing of 22-year-old Justin Raphael Wee, who is from a wealthy Chinese family. He was shot in the head by a lone gunman on June 22.
Zamboangueños stand against violence
The death of Wee, an alumnus of Ateneo de Zamboanga University (ADZU), sparked an anti-violence campaign in the city.
On June 25, about 200 university students and faculty members of ADZU held a prayer rally for Wee and the other victims of violence.
Ateneo students in Manila also started the #PrayforZamboanga campaign on social media to support the Zamboangueños’ fight against violence. They held a prayer vigil on Thursday, July 4, to condemn the killings.
Citizens of Zamboanga City started Zamboangueños Against Violence (ZAV) to express their outrage over unresolved killings in the city.
ZAV is set to meet with local government officials to air concerns.
Beefing up security
Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco has already called on the police to investigate the killings.
In a statement issued on July 3, Wednesday, the newly-elected mayor gave marching orders to the police to seek justice for the victims and their families.
“We are giving all-out support to the police and…we will conduct surprise visits to check on police visibility on the ground,” Climaco stressed.
On Monday, July 1, Climaco convened a peace and order stakeholders’ meeting. On the same day, Climaco formally reconstituted the City Peace and Order Council (CPOC) that will address the problems of insurgency, rebellion, criminality and terrorism in the city.
Meanwhile, Alejo said he is hopeful about the new administration’s plans.
“I am hoping…Let’s see if the plans work,” he added. – With reports from Jemm de Leon/ Rappler.com