POLICE Regional Office (PRO) 7 Chief Noli Taliño took the correct stance about the sinister development in the government's intensified drive against the illegal drugs trade, which is the surfacing of so-called vigilantes that hide in their anonymity to battle criminality with crime.
“Bawal sa batas ang vigilantism. That is against the law and we will not allow that to happen here. Yung pulis lang ang may karapatan na mag-implement ng mga batas,” he told reporters recently.
The hope is that Taliño is sincere in his stand about vigilantism and that his words would be taken as a command by his subordinates, considering the suspicions that some police elements are themselves behind the operation of so-called vigilantes. Taliño should also follow that statement up with orders for concerned police units to go after these vigilantes and arrest and prosecute them.
This isn't the first time that vigilantes went on a killing spree in Cebu. From 2004 to 2008, hundreds of suspected criminals were gunned down by masked armed men usually riding in tandem on motorcycles. The killers got so brazen they even did their thing inside the residents of the victims and in front of their families.
The number of killings rose because the police and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who was also at City Hall's helm at that time, were never serious about identifying and arresting the perpetrators. Thus, there was this belief that he intended to encourage vigilantism instead of stopping it by his stance.
The lessons from that sad episode in Cebu City's history was not lost on some sectors. There was the view, for example, that vigilantism could only flourish if it is nurtured by the tolerance both by the government, specifically law enforcers, and the police. The killings only stopped when a new chief of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) was installed. That chief frowned on vigilante-style killings.
It is bad enough that suspects believed to have links with the illegal drugs trade are gunned down with the least provocation by law enforcers during legitimate police operations. Allowing vigilantes to do their thing would make things worse.