By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
Crime suspects gunned down by police in less than two months after the election to the presidency of tough-talking Rodrigo Duterte hit a record 51 nationwide to raise suspicions of a rise in vigilantism as an effort among lawmen to pander to Duterte’s no-mercy pronouncements against criminals.
In a pastoral letter, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) expressed concern that vigilante-style killings might be on the rise because of the unusual increase in the number of reports on suspected criminals and drug peddlers/users being shot to death when they supposedly resisted arrest.
CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas called on law enforcers to “shoot to kill” only on grounds of self-defense or defense of others. “To kill a suspect outright, no matter how much surveillance work may have antecedently been done on the suspect, is not morally justified,” Villegas said, stressing that non-lethal means should be used instead to stop a suspect from fleeing or escaping arrest.
Police gunned down seven suspected members of a gang involved in robbery and kidnap-for-ransom operations during a running gun battle recently through three towns in Pampanga.
Chief Superintendent Aaron Aquino, Central Luzon police officer-in-charge, said the suspects belonged to the Jimboy Santos group, which was responsible for several robbery and kidnapping cases in various provinces in Central Luzon. The identities of the suspects were not immediately available.
The latest killing of the seven crime suspects in Pampanga added to the nine suspected drug pushers killed in separate gun battles with police officers in various parts of Southern Tagalog, Taguig City and North Cotabato over the weekend.
In Quezon City, relatives of one of two suspects in the rape of two women aboard a UV Express passenger van claimed a rub-out after police officers killed him.
Alfie Palana Turado, 34, was shot twice in the police car by officers escorting him to his house in Barangay Pasong Tamo, where he allegedly kept loot stolen from the two women he and fellow suspect Wilfredo Lorenzo allegedly raped.
Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) Chief Superintendent Rodelio Marcelo said Turado was shot when he grabbed the gun of one of the police officers with him as they were traveling along Tandang Sora Avenue at around 3 a.m.
The death toll increased as President-elect Rodrigo Duterte prepares for his inauguration as the 16th president of the republic on June 30. The incoming president included in his campaign platform the eradication of crime and illegal drugs within six months of his presidency.
In the Pampanga incident, the Central Luzon police chief said the running gun battle started in Magalang town, involving the suspects on board a Mitsubishi Montero with license plate PQC 877 and a Mitsubishi Adventure with plate ABJ 1722.
The suspects engaged members of the police Highway Patrol Group and the Criminal Investigation Group that were following the vehicle of the gunmen. Investigators said the Montero was cornered in Barangay Pulong Cutud in Angeles City, where more police officers were waiting to intercept the suspects. Two suspects were killed in the area.
The chase moved toward the Pandakakai resettlement in Mexico town where the responding policemen killed the five other suspects.
In the other killings, the six suspected drug dealers were reportedly gunned down in a shootout with policemen in Rizal and Laguna last June 12, police said.
Superintendent Chitadel Gaoiran, spokesperson for Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (Calabarzon), said two suspected drug pushers were killed in Rodriguez, Rizal; one drug pusher was also gunned down in Cainta, Rizal; one in Batangas City, one suspect each in Majayjay and San Pablo City in Laguna.
Gaoiran identified two of the fatalities as Gerardo Bismar and Felipe Eliponga, both suspected drug pushers in Rodriquez, Rizal that were killed in a shootout with arresting policemen after an entrapment operation in Barangay San Isidro.
Police undercover agents shot dead a drug pusher and arrested another during another entrapment operation over the weekend in Taguig City. The suspect named Alin Kamad sustained gunshot wounds in the chest and the left breast and was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.