Zambo not alone in killings woe, Cotabato had 85 murders in ’11 PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 29 January 2012 14:31

COTABATO CITY — After having been tagged as the “kidnapping capital” of Mindanao in the 1990s, the city might soon just be labeled with another moniker for having been the scene of 85 murders in 2011.

There are in fact dozens of peace activists from various foreign-assisted peace advocacy outfits now contemplating to embark on a roundtable forum soon to discuss the city’s security woes and generate ideas on how they can help local authorities address them.

It was only after the January 10 near-fatal ambush of Cotabato Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema that the city’s mixed Muslim and Christian sectors learned that 85 local residents have been killed in one attack after another from January to December last year.

An incumbent member of the City Council, Froilan Melendrez, told reporters that only a small fraction of these murder cases have been solved by the local police.

“When they say solve, they mean corresponding cases have been filed in court,” Melendrez said.

He said the City Council is now in possession of documents detailing how many people were killed here the past 12 months.

In a separate radio interview, the city police director, Senior Supt. Danny Reyes, did not refute the facts Melendrez revealed.
Reyes, however, assured the public that they are doing everything to prevent escalation of crimes in the city.

Along with the 85 killings in 2012 were more than a dozen bombings in the city during the period, apart from more than a dozen more supposed attacks foiled by members of the Army’s 6th Ordnance and Explosive Detachment with their prompt deactivation of powerful improvised explosive devices found by vigilant residents in different spots here.

Sources from the city’s media community, among them officials of the local chapters of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas and the National Union of Journalists, said most of the unsolved murders were perpetrated by notorious guns-for-hire, virtually unfazed by the heavy presence of policemen and battle-ready combatants of the 7th Marine Battalion in the city’s key entry and exit routes.

Two popular hosts of a public affairs program of the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation here, Jeff Mendez and Marychill Faunillan-Hawtay, yesterday took turns asking why the city police office has been reluctant to provide journalists with data on the crimes and other peace and security issues besetting the 37 barangays here.

Chua Yu Beng, a senior official of the city’s Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, earlier said there is an impression now among some of them that ordinary city residents are no longer safe because even the city’s supposedly influential and powerful Vice-Mayor Sema  almost got killed in a daring attack last January 10.

Sema was on his way home from a session at the city council when one of two men riding a motorcycle in tandem opened fire at his 4x4 vehicle with a customized M-16 assault rifle fitted with a noise suppressor.

Sema, chairman of the most dominant of at least three factions in the Moro National Liberation Front, was hit in his jaw, hospitalized for six days in Davao City and returned to work last Tuesday.

Concerned sectors wanted the judiciary to deploy more judges in the city, where there is only one judge now, Bansawan Ibrahim, who is litigating hundreds of cases at the Regional Trial Court here.

Ibrahim’s house was strafed with automatic rifles by unknown attackers two years ago, or thereabouts, in what he believed was a work-related attack.
Motorcycle-riding men gunned down last year Maguindanao’s provincial prosecutor, Akil Balt, in a broad daylight attack at the busy Sinsuat Avenue here. The murder of Balt has remained unsolved.

The attack on the house of Ibrahim and the murder of Balt was preceded by the still unsolved ambush-slay of Judge Sahara Silongan also at the same thoroughfare about five years ago. — Felix Ostrea