EMBATTLED City Police Director Benedicto Lopez remained unfazed over calls for his resignation amid the series of vigilante-style killings in Cagayan de Oro City.

He also insisted that the so-called “vigilantes” did not exist in the city.

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The killings left seven dead in July alone and one in August—all blamed on motorcycle-riding gunmen, fuelling speculations that a vigilante group was involved.

But Lopez rejected the “death squad” theory, saying the murders could have been perpetrated by different individuals with motives of their own.

The latest victim was Marlon Gador, 21, a native of Iligan City, who was shot by two motorcycle-riding gunmen around 9:30 a.m. Saturday along the busy Guillermo-Justo Ramonal Streets -- only several meters away from the Cogon Police Station.

That incident led to the growing criticisms over police response on the killings, including calls for Lopez to resign.

Early this week, Mayor Vicente Y. Emano gave Lopez and the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) an “ultimatum” to solve the killings.

But City Councilor Edgar S. Cabanlas wants more than that.

“Dir. Lopez should resign from his post and go back to where he belongs if he can’t solve all these killings,” Councilor Cabanlas said.

He warned that the city was poised to lose its business viability if the “summary killings” continue.

Several relatives of murdered persons who spoke to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro said the perpetrators could have come from the Cocpo itself, noting that the gunmen often use .45 caliber pistol, wear helmets to disguise their faces and in fatigue uniform.

But Lopez countered that such profiling doesn’t conclude that policemen could have been involved.

Although the victims were police characters that sometimes I could even thank the gunmen for helping the police but, I am not advocating such kind of activity,” the police official said.

Cocpo’s over half a thousand personnel, he said, have been directed to “investigate and apprehend the suspects.”

But Lopez added something that could anger the victims’ relatives: He said he could not blame some policemen for the delaying the investigation -- especially if a victim had once preyed upon the cop’s relative.

As to the resignation calls, Lopez said his departure from Cocpo will not solve the killings. Instead, he called on Cabanlas and his other critics in the City Council to help Cocpo equip its police officers to better respond to crimes. (Annabelle L. Ricalde)