The so-called “on-cam killer” in the Philippines has been arrested, thank God. Turns out he is a thug who was allegedly instructed by his boss to kill Reynaldo Dagsa, the Caloocan City councilor who was shot dead on New Year’s eve just as he was taking a photo of his family — a picture that, as it turned out, includes the gunman firing a gun at him. Dagsa was targeted, police said, because of his efforts to wipe out crime from his neighborhood.
Although from the looks of it Dagsa’s murder was not a contract killing — the gunman, Arnel Buenflor, had an axe to grind with Dagsa, who testified against him one time – it nevertheless underscored the reality that, in the Philippines, murder is quite an easy thing to commit.
Did you know, for example, that you can have somebody killed here for as low as 5,000 pesos, or less than $100? We don’t have a dearth of guns for hire in this country, where crime festers in every urban community and where “loose firearms” proliferate especially during the violent election seasons.
Human rights organizations here and abroad have done many studies and research on these contract killings and extrajudicial killings in general but the atrocities continue. Human Rights Watch did such a report, titled “You Can Die Anytime,” on Davao City’s notorious death squads in 2009.
Although reports of targeted killings in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao, are not new, the number of victims has seen a steady rise over many years. In Davao City, the number has risen from two in 1998 to 98 in 2003 to 124 in 2008. In 2009, 33 killings were reported in January alone. In recent years the geographical scope of such killings has expanded far beyond Davao City and other cities on the southern island of Mindanao to Cebu City, the Philippines’ second largest metropolis. An already serious problem is becoming much worse.
Crime watchdogs have said that guns for hire are becoming a big crime problem. The irony here is that local officials like mayors use these assassins to supposedly rid their streets of criminals. In the case of Davao, the former mayor there, Rodrigo Duterte, had asserted that the so-called Davao Death Squads worked to make the city crime-free – an assertion that Human Rights Watch debunked, citing its own research.
These killings, by the way, do not only target suspected criminals and other locals. They have also been victimizing foreigners, especially tourists. These are among the reasons why the Philippines is such a tough product to sell to foreign tourists and investors. These killings add to the sense of gloom many feel toward the Philippines. Obviously, the government of President Aquino has a lot of cleaning up to do.