GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/30 August) – Police authorities here have recorded at least 65 gun-related killings, most of which reportedly involved suspected hired killers, during the last eight months.
Supt. Maximo Layugan, deputy city police director, said their records showed that since January eight persons were killed on the average every month in various shooting incidents that happened in the city.
“The emerging pattern so far shows that most of the killings here involved hired killers,” Layugan said during the Police Regional Office 12’s weekly radio program “Bayan, Kayo Ang Boss Namin” aired Sunday.
Since July 1, he said they already recorded at least 18 shooting incidents in the city that were mostly pulled off by motorcycle-riding attackers.
Last week, a top official of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Region 12 was killed by two motorcycle-riding gunmen while he was about to enter their office here.
Layugan admitted that they have yet to establish the motive of the killing of BFAR-12 Quarantine Officer Dante Demerin but said the circumstances of the incident showed that the suspects were likely guns-for-hire.
He said they were looking at the same pattern in the killing of Barangay Calumpang Councilor Carlito Cahilsot, who was shot dead after attending the barangay council’s session last August 4.
But Layugan reiterated that there were no evidences that would suggest the involvement of a supposed death squad in the spate of killings.
“The motives of these killings were different from each other so it’s quite unlikely that a death squad is behind all these,” he said.
Based on their investigation, he said a significant number of the killings were related to land conflicts, revenge and personal grudges.
Police officials earlier acknowledged there were speculations that a so-called death squad alternately called Dadiangas Death Squad and Tuna City Death Squad was behind the killings but that this has not been confirmed.
The alleged existence of the supposed Dadiangas Death Squad or DDS came up several years ago when a series of unsolved summary killings hit the city.
The victims of the supposed death squad were mostly persons implicated in various crimes, especially drug-related cases, and the attackers were mostly motorcycle-riding men.
The DDS tag was clearly a reference to a supposed similar vigilante group in Davao City called the Davao Death Squad, which was tagged in over a thousand cases of unsolved murders for several years now.
Layugan assured that the city police has been working double time with their investigation regarding the killings and has prioritized the immediate identification and arrest all those behind them.
He cited that they already arrested at least three suspects and filed nine cases since Senior Supt. Cedric Train assumed as the new city police director last July 15.
On orders from Train, various police units in the city have increased their visibility in strategic areas and intensified their operations against the unauthorized carrying of firearms by civilians and some law enforcers.
Such move was based on the issuance of Executive Order 23 by City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio declaring the entire city as a “no-firearm zone”.
In issuing such order, Custodio cited as main reason the prevalence of armed violence and crimes involving firearms in the city since January 2010 that has reached an “alarming level.” (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)