Samar officials express concern over killings of barangay execs
SAMAR, Philippines – Four village officials were killed in Calbayog City in January alone, fueling concern among Samar officials that the deaths are just a prelude to more violence linked to the barangay elections in October.
Calbayog police records showed that the latest casualties are Barangay Chairman Roberto Habilles and Barangay Councilor Novelito Ygbuhay – residents of Barangay Hibatang – both killed on January 19.
Earlier, on January 11, Dionesio Labena, a chief tanod of Lower Happy Valley, Barangay Hibatang in Calbayog City, and Edmundo Barias were killed in a shooting incident.
"We are very much concerned about these killings and they seem to be increasing again as the barangay election approaches," Calbayog City Mayor Ronaldo Aquino told Rappler in an interview.
Private armed groups backed by political clans are suspected to be behind the killings.
"Private armies never really went away, they are back and resurrected again," Aquino said.
In September 2016, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa ordered Eastern Visayas and Samar police to dismantle private armed groups in Samar. (READ: Dela Rosa to E. Visayas cop: Dismantle armed groups or face relief)
Task Force CAGASMAS was formed a month later to track down the Montealto, Belleza, Managaysay, and the Genesis Oquendo groups believed to be operating in Calbayog City and in other towns in the first district of Samar.
Samar First District Representative Edgar Mary Sarmiento appealed to the task force to stamp out private armed groups to prevent more killings as the barangay elections draw near.
"We are appealing again to the police and the army to implement the recommendations made to promote human rights and the rule of law," Sarmiento said.
Meanwhile, Calbayog Police Chief Superintendent Marlon L. Quimno said there will be more police deployed to some areas of the city. The police and army have also mounted random checkpoints in strategic areas of the city and other nearby towns. – Rappler.com