SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/16 Aug) – An anti-corruption watchdog here voiced strong objections and called a “detestable act” local government officials’ declaration that the shooting incident at the Capitol on Monday was politically motivated.
Lawyer Victor Bernal, spokesperson of the Coalition of Surigaonons for Good Governance Transparency and Accountability (COSSUG-TA), assailed the provincial government’s position that the gunman in the assassination attempt against Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol F. Matugas was supported by their political opponents. The gunman was identified as Samuel Lapac, 69, a resident of Bernadette Village in Barangay Luna, where he was a former barangay captain.
Bernal said that Lapac was apparently in a “fit of tantrum” and during a “twist of his mind” when he started shooting, and the incident became political only because the governor happened to be there. “But to inject political motives into Mr. Lapac’s shooting and attributing it to the opposition is a detestable act,” Bernal said.
On Tuesday, Matugas’s husband, Rep. Francisco T. Matugas (Surigao del Norte, 1st District), told local media that the attempt to kill his wife was a “conspiracy” and that it was “well-planned.” He said Lapac even had an extra ammunition with him that was taken from a sling-bag that he was reportedly carrying.
But Bernal added that the political motive hatched by the congressman is only “skirting away from the real issue, which is the deteriorating peace and order situation in the province.”
Bernal and local historian Fernando A. Almeda Jr., president of both COSSUG-TA and the Surigaonon Heritage Center, cited the spate of killings that occurred in the city and province – the shooting of a former councilor in Taganaan, Surigao del Norte on July 31; the shooting of a Canadian last Saturday; two cases of shooting incidents in Espina street; another shooting right at the heart of the city; and yet another in broad daylight within the city also last month, which up to this day is still unresolved. The perpetrators were allegedly men riding in tandem.
“When will these be solved?” Bernal asked.
Almeda said Surigaonons should express their “outrage” over the culture of impunity reigning in the city and province.
The historian said that the political color added to the foiled assassination attempt is “tainted with malice because it attempts to gain sympathy at the expense of the innocent people of Surigao, our political leaders and even COSSUG TA.”
Almeda stressed that the suspect was “not in control of his mind.”
“Much as we sympathize with Gov. Sol Matugas because no leader in our community deserves to go through that experience, but unfortunately we will have to register our objection that there is politics to it,” said Councilor Jose Expeditus Bayana, member of the city council’s peace and order committee.
Bayana said Surigaonons are aware of the down spiraling mental state of Lapac, citing several incidents in the past that he went on a shooting spree, when he threw stones at the Shrine. “If ever he did that (shooting), the most probable thing is that he acted alone, politics is out of it. It’s really unfortunate that we inject politics to the incident,” he added.
Almeda said “right thinking Surigaonons” should also ask those in government why it is allowing this kind of environment to perpetuate in the city and the province, adding the “timidity” of Surigaonons could also be responsible in the culture of impunity reigning locally.
The coalition debunked perceptions that it is a political group allied with the Matugases’ political opponents like the Barbers family and former City Mayor Alfonso S. Casurra, reiterating its position when it was launched early this year that it is independent and “apolitical.”
Bayana also disclosed that he will bring the matter to the City Council on how to address the lack of police personnel in the city. As of today, there are only 72 police personnel that will serve the more than 150,000 residents in the city.
Bernal said the Matugases, who are now in power, are the ones who should take responsibility in perpetuating a culture of violence and not pass the buck on people who may pose opposition to their way of running government.
He said the Matugases were elected by the people and should instead ensure the safety of the people. “I am throwing this challenge to them to solve this problem,” said the former provincial board member, noting that the couple has “all the funds and resources” at their disposal.
Police records, however, showed that total crime volume in the province this year has dropped considerably – from 1,190 during the January-to-July period last year to 831 during the same period this year.
Index crime volume also dropped from 876 (January-July) in 2011 to 546 during the same period this year. Non-index crime posted a drop, too, from last year’s 314 283 this year. Stealing and robbery were the main index crimes that registered while shooting incidents from July this year posted 6 and another 6 starting this August 3 to August 13, the day the governor was shot. (MindaNews)