Basilan bishop: Lawlessness reigns
ISABELA CITY—Lawlessness and government failure to stop it are driving the people of Basilan to hopelessness, according to the province’s top Church leader.
Bishop Martin Jumoad, in a pastoral letter issued last Tuesday, said fear is gripping the province and its people are losing hope that the cycle of violence that has become part of their daily lives will ever end.
Residents interviewed by the Inquirer agreed.
Michael Delos Santos, whose family owns a restaurant here, said he is forced to close his shop at 6 p.m. instead of the usual 10 p.m.
Delos Santos’ father has been kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in December 2010 and is still in captivity.
Fear is evident everywhere in the province, said Delos Santos. “Shops, including those in the market, close as early as 6 p.m.,” he said.
“Restaurants like ours that used to open until 10 p.m. now close at 6 p.m.,” he said. The city is pitch black at night, he said.
The fear heightened following an explosion at the Isabela Cathedral on Monday. No one was hurt in the blast, but it became another reason for people to fear going out of their homes, according to another resident, Jessica Andalajao, a fruit vendor at the city market.
“I usually stay late until 8 p.m. to sort out my goods at the stall, but because of the bombing here, I decided to close my stall at 5 p.m.,” said Andalajao.
“Who knows, the bombers might target the market,” she said.
Bishop Jumoad said the people of Basilan are “anxious, restless and seemingly hopeless” over the province’s worsening peace and order situation.
Residents Delos Santos and Andalajao said people feel unsafe in the streets because of the absence of police patrols.
“It’s as if nothing is being done,” said Andalajao. “There is no police visibility,” she said.
“After a crime, after the bombing, it’s business as usual for police. You don’t see them,” said Delos Santos. “We don’t hear of any follow-up operations being conducted,” he said.
The recent crimes that people believe would not be solved include the bombing last Monday, the killing of PO2 Arnel Galane also last Monday, the killing of teenager Ariel Buante on Aug. 12, the murder of election officer Daryll Kinazo on Aug. 11 in Lamitan City and the killing of three persons also in Lamitan on Aug. 5.
Mujiv Hataman, acting governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said he will call for a meeting with provincial officials on the security situation in Basilan, which is part of ARMM.
Hataman, however, said he did not believe that the recent crimes in the province were related to each other.
Senior Insp. Kenneth Balisang, police chief of Lamitan City, said authorities are not sleeping on their jobs, announcing the arrest of a suspect in the 2001 massacre of rubber plantation workers in Balobo, Lamitan.
The suspect was identified as Jaddatal Aling Bakulan, believed to be a member of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf. Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
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