Stop the killings – Samar congressman

Jazmin Bonifacio, Eastern Vista News

Calbayog City – Congressman Edgar Mary Sarmiento expressed his grave concern over the spate of killings in Samar province. In an interview, he appealed on all politicians and the private armed groups to cease the carnage and chaos in the province’s 1st district that has heightened in the early part of this year.

It can be recalled that in the morning of January 31, 2017 simultaneous lobbing of grenades in the residential houses of San Jorge, Samar Mayor Joseph Grey happened followed by a shooting incident around 3:00 in the afternoon killing Mardone Repol, a school teacher of Carayman Elementary School in Calbayog City. The violent event happened while the local police was still on the process of determining the explosives used in the bombing of Grey’s houses. Suspects for both events are still unknown.

While, the latest incident is the ambush of Vice Mayor Nancy Grey of San Jorge Samar, last February 6, 10:00 in the morning along Maharlika Highway in the vicinity of the official’s residence in Barangay Mancol, San Jorge town.

Vice Mayor Grey  was on her way to the Municipal Hall to preside the municipal council’s regular session when unidentified armed men fired at her van hitting the driver Catalino Obaob in his left leg. Grey was able to get out from her car safely. Nancy Grey is the wife of Mayor Joseph Grey who took over the town leadership following his wife’s nine years in the Mayor’s office.

A volunteer carries a sandbag piled at the facade of Mayor Grey's residence in San Jorge, Samar after the lobbing of grenade to his houses. Photo by: Jazmin Bonifacio/Eastern Vista
A volunteer carries a sandbag piled at the facade of Mayor Grey’s residence in San Jorge, Samar after the lobbing of grenade to his houses. Photo by: Jazmin Bonifacio/Eastern Vista

“We are tired of these killings and chaos happening in our province,” Congressman Sarmiento told Eastern Vista in an interview. “We are appealing for the people’s support in reducing the abusive greed for power and money that destroys our people and province,” Sarmiento stressed.

The neophyte congressman also said that the principle of ‘eye for an eye’ or the law of retaliation plainly leaves everyone blind. “I understand this deep-sitted anger and hatred but we Samarnon believe that we cannot overcome such with bloodshed. The Waray-waray people are peace-loving,” said the Samar representative. It can be remembered that former Samar representative and DILG Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento then deployed PNP Special Action Force troopers in the district supposedly to take control of the problem. Edgar Mary is the brother of Mel Senen Sarmiento. Congressman Edgar Mary is a member for the majority bloc in the House’s Public Order and Safety Committee.

“It is time now for us to struggle for reconciliation instead of fuelling clashes. Gin-aaro ko la sa iyo buligi gad ak niyo ayaw gad niyo buhata an sugad san iyo kag-anak. Maaram ak nga nasasakitan, maaram ak gusto niyo bumalos pero paraa na gad niyo para sa aton pinalangga nga probinsya” (What I am just asking from you is to help me, don’t do what your parents did. I know you are in pain, I know you want to retaliate but it is time to erase those for our beloved province) Sarmiento said.

Meanwhile, the business sector of Calbayog city is asking the government to solve and deter crimes in the city as it might affect the trade and commerce flow. They fear that potential investors seeking to start businesses in the city may not pursue if violence continues.

Bobby Roño, president of the Greater Calbayog Chamber of Commerce and Industry claimed that violence imposes tremendous costs on society and constitutes economic and social challenges.

“This may scare off investors intending to venture businesses here should violence continue,” he said.

“I think the city government and the council will agree that we need to implement specific initiatives to enhance security measures by way of strengthening our community policing. And the relationship of the police and the community is also vital,” Rono added.

Calbayog City police installs a checkpoint along the National Highway after the heightened violence in Samar's 1st district. Photo by: Jazmin Bonifacio/Eastern Vista
Calbayog City police installs a checkpoint along the National Highway after the heightened violence in Samar’s 1st district. Photo by: Jazmin Bonifacio/Eastern Vista

Lawyer Eddie Gomez, chairman of the board of directors of GCCC claimed that despite the killings recently reported, the city is still one of the most peaceful cities in the Philippines.

Calbayog according to Gomez is not listed as one of those which are identified as a drug city.

“This is a good indication that peace and order here is rather good. Now, if ever we landed in the map of the military or any group that needs a campaign for better peace and order it’s only because of the isolated killings that we have,” he further claimed.

“It’s everyone’s business.  It’s a challenge for each of us to do something to feel safe and secure from crime.  Because if we don’t stop it, no one will.” Gomez added.

In recent years, violence has engulfed Samar province believed to be perpetrated by private armed groups some associated to prominent politicians of the province. Different groups have already called for the immediate halt of the so-called ‘senseless killings’. Patriotic group BAYAN Sinirangan Bisayas already urged the people of the province to unite for peace amid clashing political clans. Bishops of Samar island also called on the former President to address the issue at the time.

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Eastern Vista

Eastern Vista is an alternative media organization in Eastern Visayas. Stories of people in the struggle for justice and aid after super typhoon Yolanda inspired its creation in 2014. Eastern Vista is also a co-producer of Lingganay han Kamatuoran, a Waray-based radio magazine program airing since 2003. From Eastern Philippines, Eastern Vista shares the news and views from a people rising.