LAST Wednesday (Jan. 9), a jail inmate was shot dead in an ambush by armed men on a police patrol car on its way to the Argao, Cebu court. His two police escorts were not harmed.
That promptly recalls two other related incidents:
 Last July 20, three jail inmates on board a city jail vehicle and escorted by two police officers were gunned down by armed men in Bry. Linao, Talisay City. They were on their way to the city court, with the ambush staged just 300 meters away from the police jail.
 Last Sept. 12, armed men killed one inmate and two jail guards in an ambush on a jail van on the way to court. The van rammed into a house in Sitio Oprra in Bry. Kalunasan, a few meters from the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC).
The similarities in the incidents stand out:
VICTIMS LINKED TO DRUGS. In the most recent violence, last Jan. 9, killed was the former “trusted underling” of self-confessed drug lord Franz Sabalones. In the July 20 Talisay ambush, two of the three inmates killed were linked to slain drug lord Jeffry “Jaguar” Diaz. In the Sept. 12 Kalunasan ambush, the inmate killed was Jerryfer Peregrino, identified by police as a “big-time drug lord.” And the two CPDRC guards killed were investigated by the Capitol committee on discipline for alleged smuggling of illegal drugs.
MODUS IN KILLINGS. Aside from choice of target, the ambushes had these identical features: Staged in the morning, when the would-be victim or victims were being taken to the prosecutors or the judge. The job done by killers riding in tandem on motorcycles: In Argao, six persons on three motorcycles; in Kalunasan, four on two motorcycles; and in Talisay, good Lord, 14 on seven motorcycles. The guards usually spared.
Whoever the victims would turn out to be -- real criminals or dirty cops or jail guards – they were victims of murder. They were summarily executed before they were convicted, when the worst punishment the courts could mete out was jail term for life, not death penalty.
The crimes would be part of the crime stats, a disruption of the community’s peace and order. Crimes committed in the name of stopping other crimes never succeed anywhere. Instead, they erode our institutions and devalue respect for life, with the climate of impunity encouraging other killings for reasons other than illegal drugs.
Impunity—and the stink
Impunity is the by-product of unsolved murders. None of the cases of suspected “salvaging” had been solved. “Are they even investigating?” the wife of a slain suspect wailed on radio.
The assaults also hurt BJMP, the jail bureau, a government agency that works with the police and the courts and prosecutors. Its personnel are wounded or killed, its properties damaged and, worse, its reputation smeared – what the heck, it cannot even protect the people in its custody.
And yes, there’s the additional stink in the justice system when suspects are killed while on their way to court. Intended or not, there is the supreme irony: the suspects are mowed down while traveling the road to justice.