POLICE say they don't know who are the unidentified armed men or women who kill suspected drug dealers and petty thieves and dump their bodies.
Victims are shot in the back or head, the neck tied with cardboard that reads, as a foreign news site translated, "I am a drug dealer. Don't emulate."
It used to be only bodies turning up. Then when noise over judicial executions rose, "vigilantes" came out of shadows and became visible. On motorcycles, riding in tandem, they allowed themselves to be seen, as if to say, It's us, it's not the cops.
And the police are clueless?
Just like police not knowing who's the snatcher in this area, the "akyat bahay" in that neighborhood, the occasional gun for hire.
If police didn't know at first, they would've known by now, through their network of assets, tipsters whose survival depend on police handlers.
Few things vex more the police chief of a city, town, province or region than a serial crime going on in his turf and he's bat-blind. Insulting to the leader and an ugly smear on the organization.
We heard the line from police years ago when a local government official allegedly "sponsored" a death squad of his own, aping the Davao experience. Talked about but never raised to any prosecutor, the buzz was that some cops helped. They couldn't catch "vigilantes" because they were the "vigilantes." Police said then, as they say now, they'd investigate and came up with nothing.
What would prompt citizens to take the law into their hands? They could not be so outraged they'd do the killing themselves. Those nuts are abroad or in movies. Here, motive must be profit and the safety of getting away with murder.
Unfair rap on police? Yes, to most law enforcers who want to enforce the law in the manner provided by law, not by perverting PNP's manual of operations or behaving as criminals themselves.