Group appeals to end Zamboanga City “killing field” slayings

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – In the villages of Talon-Talon, Mampang and Arena Blaco, people now avoid travelling at night.

Since late last year, records from the police reveal, at least 27 people have been killed in the three areas.

“I even have to cancel several appointments especially when it’s already late,” said Nujom Hadjibata, a non-government office worker living in Talon-Talon. She fears getting hit in a cross fire.

Ustadz Jamal Sakaluran Munib, Chairman of the National Ulama League of the Philippines – Zambasulta, describes the situation as “alarming” because it is already interpreted by some as a “religious conflict.”

“The conflict has escalated to involved innocent Muslim and Christian civilians,” he said.

The Zamboanga City Peace and Order Council (CPOC) believe that the killings are a result of a family feud where the casualties are no longer limited to family and friends.

But the Interreligious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP) believes the problem is larger in scope, adding that there have been killings outside the three areas and that the death toll has reached 60.

In a statement signed by its conveners – Fr. Angel Calvo of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, Professor Ali Yacub, representing the local Islamic community, and Atty. Paulino Ersando of the Evangelical Free Church – IRSMP appealed for action to stop the “worsening peace and order in the City in general” as well as help resolve the feud.

“The periodic wave of killings, terrorism and criminality has turned the city into what seems to be a dizzying killing field,” the statement read.

“We appeal to our local government leaders, the police, judiciary and other law enforcement agencies to adopt adequate means and ways to constantly ensure and maintain peace and order in our community,” it added.

“We appeal, too, to all of our fellow citizens in the city to exercise their civic duty to help our authorities, in every way they can and at all times, to help prevent crimes and other violence in the community and to peacefully bring to end this present crisis.”

The latest fatality was Mampang Barangay Councilor Victor Dagalea. He was ambushed in broad daylight last July 13, while on his way to a CPOC meeting.

A companion also died.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, who heads the council, says they will declare the villages under the “state of lawlessness” should the situation in the area worsen.

Under the Local Government Code, local governments can declare a state of lawlessness to “maintain peace and order” to “protect the welfare of its people in general.”

The CPOC, through Lobregat, is also requesting the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to send soldiers to help secure the mentioned villages.

On the other hand, Western Mindanao (Region IX) Police Regional Director Edwin Corvera directed the Zamboanga City Police Office to bring “positive result” in two weeks.

In a meeting with Lobregat last week, Chief Supt. Corvera ordered the local police to make arrests and file indictments. (Written by Nung Aljani with reports from Albert Arcilla/PECOJON Online PH))