CEBU CITY -- A curfew in the towns, more checkpoints and greater police visibility are among the initial suggestions to curb a rise in fatal shootings, which business, church and government leaders are worried about.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, who chairs the Regional Peace and Order Council, will call on all chiefs of police and the head of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to a meeting to take up the spate of attacks.

The latest killed a Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) engineer.

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"I need to discuss with them in a more in-depth and candid manner," Garcia told reporters. She will schedule the meeting next week.

Garcia said she was worried after receiving reports the gunmen hired in recent attacks were the vigilantes in this city who killed over a hundred suspected or newly released criminals starting in December 2004.

Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal "is concerned, as every killing and every death is saddening," said Msgr. Achilles Dakay, Cebu Archdiocesan media liaison officer.

The Archdiocese is urging law enforcement agencies to check the proliferation of unlicensed firearms and whether this has contributed to the increase in attacks.

Six in 6

At least six ambush attacks have been committed in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue since late June this year. This week alone, two took place.

"This is terrible and an indictment of the lack of quality law enforcement here in Cebu. There is little police visibility and our police are poorly equipped. This has been a perennial problem and little is being done to solve this long-standing issue. We cannot be a modern city or province without a modern police force," said Cebu Business Club president Dondi Joseph in a text message to Sun.Star Cebu.

"If it continues, it may impact businesses. These crimes should be solved immediately and there should be zero tolerance for lawbreaking, however small," Joseph added.

Rey Calooy, president of Filipino-Cebuano Business Club Inc. (FCBI), said the small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) are very concerned about peace and order in Cebu, as this will affect the city's image as a tourism and investment destination.

He stressed police visibility is a must especially that SMEs, in particular, can't afford to hire bodyguards or security guards.

"Police authorities have to exert more effort to totally solve the case since it would greatly affect tourism and business in Cebu. This is a big challenge to them," said Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Samuel Chioson.

"We are hoping for a quick resolution to avoid a negative image of Cebu's business climate. Peace and order are important key factors to lure new investors," said Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Eric Mendoza.


Mendoza told Sun.Star Cebu that local police should strengthen their presence and place more checkpoints to ensure public safety. He added that working with other intelligence agencies is also needed.

As for businessmen, Chioson said, "We have to be careful and vigilant to what is going on around us. We should tighten our security measures wherever we go."

Hotelier Manuel Ting, 72, president of the Cebu Parklane International Hotel, was gunned down in Barangay Tisa last June, just a day after his brother Nicolas survived a similar ambush in Mandaue City.

Last Wednesday, businesswoman Debbie Yu, 55, survived an ambush near her office in Cabancalan, Mandaue City. Yu owns the DRBG Import Export Inc. Her driver Sonny Mahilom is in critical condition.

The hired guns and the vigilantes have a thing in common-they ride a motorcycle when they make a hit.

According to Garcia's source, the vigilantes lost their jobs when their benefactors stopped paying them. They allegedly had monthly compensation.

Garcia said the person who "inspired" them has also stopped backing these so-called vigilantes.

The governor was asked if her pronouncement about whoever is behind the vigilantes was a reference to Representative Tomas Osmeña, but Garcia answered, "Ikaw niingon ana (You're the one who said that, not I)."


Garcia said Central Visayas is seeing a drop in the crime rate but if ambush attacks continue, it will affect the image of Cebu.

Provincial Board (PB) Member Sun Shimura, chairperson of the committee on public safety, peace and order, will also coordinate with PNP Regional Office (PRO)-Central Visayas Director Lani-O Nerez and Cebu Provincial Police Office Director Erson Digal on how to solve the attacks.

(Shimura's stepfather is also a top police official, Senior Superintendent Vicente Loot.)

Shimura plans to submit a resolution to enforce curfews in the towns because he fears that minors, who are exempted from criminal liability under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, will be increasingly tapped to commit crimes.

He also wants to enforce checkpoints in all towns and component cities and maybe pass an ordinance that riders should not use full-face helmets. (JGA/KOC/RBF/JKV/Sun.Star Cebu)