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Manila's inability to curb violence rings alarm bells

Church expresses horror over brutal killings

Gulf News

Manila: Catholic leaders all over the country have expressed alarm over the seeming helplessness by the government to curb increasing violence, the latest of which involved the abduction and murders of businessmen.

A rash of abductions and murders have hit the front pages of news dailies in the Philippines over the past the several days, the latest of which involved used car dealers.

The burnt cadavers of car exchange dealer Emerson Lozano, 44, and his driver Ernani Sensil were separately found in Central Luzon's Pampanga and Tarlac last Friday.

On Tuesday, the remains of another murder victim, Venson Evangelista, was found in Porac, Pampanga. The bodies of all three were burned. Although criminal acts are common in parts of the country, what is alarming is the brutal manner the killings had been carried out.

Making a statement

The victimised car dealers had been abducted and their bodies burned apparently out of extreme anger or as a matter of sending a statement that the group behind the killings are untouchable. Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, former head of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said the apparent rise of criminal incidents indicate a "dysfunctional justice system".

Bishop Deogracias Iniquez of the Manila's suburban Archdiocese of Caloocan said the killings were alarming because it shows the inability of the government to impose law and promote order.

He said the recent and unfolding events should be carefully studied by authorities to "find out what brought about the current situation and search for effective ways to solve the problem".

For his part, Bishop Emmanuel Trance of Central Philippines Catarman diocese said the killings are just manifestations of what had long been happening in other parts of the country.

He said the murders had been occurring "silently and continually."

Aside from the shocking killings of traders in Metro Manila, businessmen continue to be kidnapped and held for ransom in chilling regularity in Mindanao.

Cruz said that amid the rise in criminality the government seems to be taking the unfolding events in stride and without any hint of alarm.

"President Benigno Aquino appears irrelevant in the present social predicament and that is the reality," the prelate said.

The presidential palace on the other hand, said the abductions and brutal murders were meant to humiliate the Philippine National Police.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte admitted that the rash of violence poses a big challenge to the PNP and the Aquino administration, however she said that the government believes that there is no political motive in the killings.