Business leader says amen to bishop's proposal to declare ML in Cotabato City

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/12 October)—The head of a business group in Cotabato City has endorsed the proposal of a senior Catholic Church official to place the city under martial law in the wake of kidnappings and other major crimes.

“Whatever works [to improve the peace and order condition is welcome]. Lots of chaotic things are happening in our area which the local government could not handle properly,” said Peter F. Marquez, president of the Metro Cotabato Chamber of Commerce.

Marquez recommended the deployment of police Special Action Forces within the city, with the Philippine Marines patrolling its coastal boundaries.

Bishop Jose Colin M. Bagaforo, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Cotabato has asked President Benigno S. Aquino III to declare martial law in Cotabato City.

“If you look at our problem here, other forms of criminalities are rising and it seems that the solution can’t be handled anymore [by local authorities],” Bagaforo told an Oblates of Mary Immaculate-owned radio station on Tuesday.

Due to dismay, the bishop said he recommended martial rule in Cotabato City, noting that the worsening peace and order situation in Cotabato City must be addressed with harsh solutions.

Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato City could not be reached for comment. He is presently in Rome on invitation of the Pope.

Reports said that aside from kidnapping, incidents of car theft, robbery, holdup and murder have gone up in Cotabato City.

Last week, armed men police believed to belong to the Pentagon kidnap-for-ransom gang abducted Filipino-Chinese businesswoman Conchita Tan near her home along Barangay Rosary Heights.

The two body guards of Tan, wife of local wealthy businessman Lucio Tan, were killed when they fought the kidnappers, police said. The Tans reportedly own LCT Hardware in the area.

In August, the kidnapping of another Chinese-Filipino trader shocked the business sector in Cotabato City.

Nelson Tay, who was snatched in his store along a busy street by armed men posing as soldiers, was released days later after paying “board and lodging fees,” a euphemism for ransom payment.

Bagaforo said that with martial law in the locality and with the deployment of Philippine Marines, criminality can be curbed.

Cotabato City remains under a state of emergency but it seems that local leaders and law enforcers are slackening on their job to improve the peace and order situation, he added in a telephone interview.

The state of emergency was declared in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces following the massacre last November of 58 people, including 32 media workers, in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao allegedly perpetrated by the powerful Ampatuan clan.

Soon after the declaration of the state of emergency, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo imposed martial law in these areas through Presidential Proclamation 1959, which was lifted after seven days. (MindaNews)