THE most significant if not the biggest local story of the past week was not related to drugs.

Killings of traffickers and users by serial repetition have dulled people’s senses. To appall us, it might take a massacre, with the bodies laid from one end of a dirt side road to the other. Or maybe an entire family of drug suspects, including children, slaughtered while asleep in their home.

The week’s top story was the kidnapping and mauling of a medical intern, 26, outside Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital (CDUH) in Cebu City, Saturday morning, Feb. 4.

Major crime

Four unidentified men attacked Julian Iñaki “Jaki” Garcia, a post-graduate intern of the hospital and grandson of CDUH owner Potenciano Larrazabal. They forced him out of his car and into the kidnappers’ van. Wearing bonnets, they also blindfolded Jaki. When freed in Carcar City hours later, he already had wounds and bruises on his body: he was badly beaten up.

The crime is major. Under the Revised Penal Code, when kidnapping is “attended” with serious physical injuries, the penalty is from reclusion perpetua to death. (Capital punishment was scrapped by special law and still has to be restored.)

What takes it out of the ordinary realm of crime of passion or for profit is the badge of impunity. The criminals did it to teach the victim: “patagam ra na,” meaning they could do what they want, take the law into their hands, and get away with it.

No fear

Whoever needed instruction, the victim or any of his VIP relatives, the “perps” carried a swagger of those who think they’re exempt from punishment or harm. The culture that breeds killers in police uniform or vigilante hood, as in the extrajudicial murders that make the country look bad in the world’s eyes. The same virus in society that drives politicians to kill their rivals and innocent bystanders, as in the Maguindanao massacre.

No fear in the hearts of those who did the crime. Why were they so unafraid of the law? Police can find out by catching the culprits, if they can.