Philippines Cracks Down After Assassination


Philippine police | Image by John Raymond Tibay

In the wake of the deadliest attack on politicians in recent weeks, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has ordered a crackdown on illegal firearms and private armies.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Marcos described the weekend shootings, which killed nine people, as “terrifying” and “entirely unacceptable,” as reported by AP News.

One of the victims was Roel Degamo, the provincial governor of Negros Oriental.

In an attack that Marcos said was “purely political,” about six men with assault rifles reportedly opened fire on Degamo in front of his home while he was meeting with villagers. Eight bystanders were killed and another 17 were injured. The suspects wore military-style gear and drove three SUVs, which were later found abandoned.

According to police, four suspects have since been arrested and formally charged in connection with the shooting. A fifth suspect was killed during a shootout with officers, AP News reported. The authorities are still actively pursuing other potential assailants within the region, which law enforcement agents have blockaded.

“My government will not rest until we have brought the perpetrators of this dastardly and heinous crime to justice,” Marcos said in a statement, per AP News.

The attack on Degamo, a supporter of Marcos’ presidential campaign in the previous year, is just one of several shootings targeting political leaders since the beginning of the year.

The convoy of Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr., the provincial governor of southern Lanao del Sur, was ambushed by armed men on February 17. The politician was wounded and four of his bodyguards were killed.

Two days later Rommel Alameda, vice mayor of Aparri, Cagayan, was killed in a similar incident, along with five others.

Three days after that attack, Ohto Montawal, the mayor of Datu Montawal, Maguindanao, suffered non-fatal gunshot wounds while inside his car.

Marcos, who took office last June, inherited significant and longstanding problems of organized crime and belligerent Muslim and communist groups, per AP News. The proliferation of unlicensed firearms and the inadequate response of law enforcement have served to fuel the violence.

Spurred by the killing of Degamo, Marcos has recently ordered police to assess political hotspots in the country, with the aim of dismantling private armies and confiscating illegal firearms.

As the current president aims to increase the presence of the police and the military in order to prevent further violence, it is worth noting that a former president, his father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., notoriously declared martial law in the country from 1972 to 1981.

During his run for president, Marcos Jr. distanced himself from the record of his father, who was exiled in 1986.

In 2009, the severity of the country’s political violence became apparent when almost 200 armed individuals attacked the convoy of a political rival and killed 58 people. Some involved in this attack were brought to justice a decade later, but others are still at large.

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