TO express worries about the series of high-profile killings perpetrated by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Metro Cebu the past few days is to be repetitive. And so too the act of calling the police to solve the murders and end the impunity.

Since so-called vigilantes roamed the streets of Cebu City, killing released jail inmates and suspected criminals, it seemed to have become easier for armed men to murder anybody, even including businessmen riding in their private vehicles.

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Supply and demand

From what has surfaced in police investigations of the killings, it looks like two separate developments have linked up with each other, producing a lethal combination that law enforcers may not be able to break up easily and immediately.

On one side you have the lack of respect for human life that makes some people in conflict situations, whether for political, business or personal reasons, consider murder an easy way out.

On the other side, you have perpetrators of petty crimes and gang members who, after years of being tested in the grinder that is underworld life, have realized that they can profit from the experience by offering their services as hired guns.

It’s the same old law of supply and demand--the demand for hired guns being met by the obvious proliferation of these killers in the market.

The result is the transformation of the phrase, “barato na ang kinabuhi sa tawo,” from the merely figurative to the literal.

If one were to go by the rumors, hired killers now offer their services for only a few thousand pesos.

Commodity

Incidentally, the same law of supply and demand teaches us that a big demand for a scarce supply would result in the rise of prices. Conversely, low demand for a big supply would result in prices of commodities going down.

The cheapness of the life of people targeted for assassination is therefore directly proportional to the rise in the number of hired guns available in the market.

It is this reality that makes the spate of killings in Metro Cebu all the more dangerous. The murders are no longer just a natural by-product of the intensification of conflicts among individuals.

Rather, these have become proof that life is now being treated by some people as a mere commodity.