Group hits Lobregat for Zambo killings

David Yu Santos
Various groups in Zamboanga City call for a stop to the killings in the city and justice for a slain university president

Traditional Islamic prayers are offered before the burial of Arturo "Archie" Eustaqio III on Monday, April 2. (Photo courtesy of Ar-Ryan Mawallil Quijano)

MANILA, Philippines – A peace advocacy group in Zamboanga City issued a strongly worded statement on Wednesday, April 3, urging authorities and the local government to put a stop to the spate of killings in the city, the latest victim of which was a university president.

Nobody – in this so-called Asia’s Latin City in which the rule of law is now teetering on the brink of a total collapse, if not already,” said the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP), a network of Christian, Muslim and Lumad groups advocating peace. “Our peace and order has imploded.”


The IRSMP called on President Benigno Aquino III “to use his extraordinary/special powers” to ensure that peace and order is restored and preserved in the city, and for the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) “to swiftly investigate” the killing of Universidad de Zamboanga president Arturo “Archie” Eustaquio III.

The group urged Mayor Celso Lobregat “seriously take his job” and “properly utilize his office’s resources” to support the security agencies’ anti-crime efforts.

Words cannot describe our sense of outrage and condemnation of this dastardly incident,” IRSMP added, referring to the Eustaquio’s killing last April 1.

Eustaquio, said to be 61st victim of gun slaying in Zamboanga City since January this year, was described as a scion of a prominent Christian clan. He converted to Islam, however, and was one of the city’s most respected leaders.

He was also highly regarded for his liberal and compassionate policies toward his school’s low income-class students. An influential peace advocate, he served as an honorary member of the IRSMP.

Complacent authorities

The IRSMP said his killing has shocked local residents, “and hopefully the city’s authorities and their smug complacency as well.”

Lobregat has been the subject of public criticism for several months now over the killings in the city.

Eustaquio’s death is but a climax to the long-rising sense of frustration mixed with dread of local residents over the series of violent killings,” the IRSMP statement said. “The people are greatly concerned and fearful now: if an assassin can kill with impunity a man of stature like Eustaquio, who then in the city can be safe from a similar attack?”

On Tuesday night, April 3, local police engaged in a shootout two armed men believed to be behind Eustaquio’s murder. One of the suspects, Reymundo Limen alias “Leleng,” was killed in the firefight in Barangay Guiwan. Police arrested the other suspect, Hermes Sarimogan, 29. A caliber 45 pistol was also recovered from the site.

I can assure you that I am taking my job very, very seriously,” Lobregat told Rappler. He said he convened the city Peace and Order Council (POC) on Wednesday, April 4, to call on everyone to help in resolving the case.

Contrary to what the critics say, the rule of law in Zamboanga City prevails. I am putting my heart, mind and body to do what the people have elected me to do. We are doing everything we can to identify and catch the perpetrators of the incident,” Lobregat said.

Other institutions such as the Zamboanga, Basiland, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi Association of Private Schools and the Ateneo de Zamboanga University have issued separate statements condemning the ambush-slaying of Eustaquio.

Friends, teachers, students and former employees of the UZ also turned to social networking sites such as Facebook to express their grief and reiterate their call for justice.

Several messages posted on the UZ Facebook account paid tribute to Eustaquio, fondly called as “Sir Archie,” describing him as a “very kind, humble man” with “a sincere heart for both Christian and Muslim students.”

A short video of Eustaquio showing him as a leader of the region’s biggest private university was recently uploaded to YouTube, where messages of condolences have also been posted.

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