The brazen assassination of a Mindanao town mayor at the gates of the Philippine capital once more underscore how the initial euphoria amid the ascension of the Benigno Aquino government into power has turned sour.

Now, the country is back to where it was before – in a state where lawlessness strikes at the very heart of life.

Mayor Ukol Talumpa of Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur, his wife and two others, including an 18-month child believed not to be related to the others, were killed when gunmen posing as motorcycle police breached security at Terminal 3 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport and ambushed the group as they were emerging from the terminal building.

The manner of execution and the careful planning that went along with it – complete with cover and getaway plan – points to hired professional assassins who knew or were tipped off to the mayor’s arrival at the airport, some 1,000 kilometers from his hometown in the southern Philippines.

It was not the first attempt on his life. Talumpa twice cheated death in his hometown, but not in Metro Manila where he thought his enemies wouldn’t catch him and where he left his guard down. It was fatal for him and his wife this time.

That they were killed at the airport named after the president’s father, who was himself assassinated on the same tarmac 30 years ago, is a painful reminder that many of the political killings down the years have remained unsolved to this day.

The body of Filipino Sen. Benigno Aquino, foreground center, lies on the ground next to the body of his assassin, left, as security officers of the Manila International Airport take cover on August 21, 1983. Pic: AP.

That the culture of impunity persists in the country today because many of the perpetrators of those unsolved killings got off scot-free, others even worm their way back into power or have always remained there.

This has just emboldened the criminals in our midst. They go about their violent business with utter disregard for the authorities. Maybe even with the tacit approval of somebody in authority.

It no longer matters who the victims have become.  Activists, journalists, politicians, government officials, civilians, felons and criminals.  Even bystanders, like the baby today.

It matters not anymore how many have been killed.  Four. Ten. A hundred.  Thousands even. The madness has simply become uncontrollable.

When shall this come to an end? Is there still a safe place for anyone?