THE shooting to death of a theft suspect by a barangay tanod (village watchman) in Ermita seemed to have exposed what can be considered a can of worms in the effort by the officials there to maintain peace and order in their jurisdiction. The victim, Lendon Abadinas, was killed past midnight Tuesday after he reportedly tried to run while being escorted to the Carbon Police Station.
“He resisted and during the struggle, I picked up my gun. A shot rang out and I don’t know where I hit him. I really had no intention of killing him,” Ermita barangay tanod Junnel Sanchez said on the incident.
Now we know of some objectionable practices in Ermita, with the first and the most obvious being that some Ermita barangay tanods maybe carrying unlicensed guns, with the practice allowed by barangay officials. The second is the existence in the barangay of a detention center where those whom the tanods arrest are kept for a time — a violation — instead of being turned over to the police.
The Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) is already investigating the incident while the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)-Central Visayas is planning to follow suit. Incidentally, the CHR only recently called the attention of Ermita village chief Felicisimo Rupinta for launching a shame campaign to fight the proliferation of illegal drugs in the area.
This may be unfair to the police, but some critics are already linking Abadinas’s killing to the impunity brought about by the government’s war against illegal drugs. The act, characterized by the lack of respect for the rights of the arrested person, has all the elements of some of the operations conducted against suspected drug peddlers or addicts.
But it’s good that CCPO Chief Joel Doria is not about to give the concerned barangay tanods in Ermita some slack and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña has long questioned the character of some barangay tanods in Ermita, although that may be partly because Rupinta is not allied with Osmeña’s Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan but is with the camp of Barug Team Rama.
Their stance on the matter should ensure that similar incidents would not happen again and that lessons would be learned from it.