Another death in MSU-Marawi

MANILA, Philippines – Another death, another faceless suspect.

A balut vendor named Jovert Algoso, 37, was shot dead in Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City, Tuesday night, MSU Security Services Director Sobair Macabinta said in a text message.

Macabinta said Algoso was shot at close range early evening. He was dead on arrival at Amai Pakpak Hospital in Marawi City.

Algoso, a resident of Buruun, Iligan City, is only one of the many victims in the recent spate of crimes in MSU-Marawi.

About 20 crimes have occurred in MSU within 4 months, said Lanao del Sur Assemblywoman Samira Gutoc-Tomawis.

In October, Philosophy professor Othello Cobal and his student, Erwin Diaz were burned to death when unidentified men set ablaze the 3-storey building that housed Cobal’s internet café.

After the death of the key witness in the fire, Estrella Diaz, no suspects have been caught and the crime has remained unsolved.

Non-muslims targeted?

It would appear that Algoso’s killing is an isolated incident but Tomawis raised concerns over the apparent increase in crimes against non-Muslims in the area.

“Why are non-Muslims targeted? There are groups trying to destroy local peace and because of this, the perception that it’s a place where there could be peace is once again destroyed,” Tomawis said.

Conal and Algoso shared two things in common – they were both non-Muslims and not original residents of Marawi.

Shortly after Cobal and Diaz were killed in a fire that also burned down a Land Bank of the Philippines branch, an employee from a nearby Western Union branch received a text message saying that the bank will be the next target. The employee is also a non-Muslim. 

Tomawis said that due to the incident, the only bank left within the MSU’s vicinity, Western Union, is set to close down.

“It’s not not just the negative perception about Muslims in the área. This is about students' lives, sources of income, families. It’s also about the socio-economic damage inflicted by these faceless people,” Tomawis said.

Students from all over Mindanao, and even from as far as Palawan, enroll in MSU because it offers one of the cheapest tuition in the country at P50 per unit.

'Extremist groups sowing fear'

Declining to mention any names, Tomawis said there have been suspicions that “extremist groups” who are “against certain establishments or people [who don't share] the same value system” may be behind the recent killings in Marawi.

In the case of Cobal, for example, Tomawis said his Internet café had served as “a place of freedom,” where men and women were free to mix. This might have not sat well with certain groups in the community, Tomawis said.

“This is a place of integration for Christians, Muslims and Lumads. These incidents are just destroying that philosophy. Every incident, it’s about fear, playing with fear,” Tomawis said.

In the aftermath of the October fire incident, Tomawis filed a resolution declaring MSU a zone of peace.

Although the MSU Board of Regents has approved the proposal, a recent turnover of positions in the police has delayed their response on the plan. ­–