Monday, October 30, 2006

Zamboanga Traders Are Alarmed Over Spate Of Killings

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 30 Oct) – Traders in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga expressed alarm Monday over the spate of killings they say has effected the business climate.

The number of senseless killings has increased significantly over the recent months. Just the past two weeks, about a dozen people had been killed in gun attacks in Zamboanga, bringing the death toll to more than 70 since early this year.

"The situation is very alarming. The authorities may be trying their best, but the public, especially the business group here is not happy with the rising crime rate," business leader Arsenio L. Gonzalez, Jr., told the Mindanao Examiner.

Mr. Gonzalez, who is the current director of the Zamboanga Economic Zone, said investors will shy away if killings continue unabated in Zamboanga City.

Most of the killings remain unsolved and police blamed the attacks on hired killers and family feud.

Early this month, Charles Mesina, manager of Kingstown Sardines factory, was shot dead by a suspected policeman while traveling on his way home. Gunmen also killed a business couple Joseph Quijano and his wife Erlinda in an attack just outside their house in Zamboanga.

Another Chinese trader identified only as Huang was also shot dead last week in downtown Zamboanga.

"What makes these incidents even more alarming is that the authorities themselves are baffled over the spate of killings, as if nobody is on top of the situation."

"We are urging the local government and our security forces to beef up there intelligence gathering. It will somehow mellow down the public fear. Authorities should track down and arrest the culprits immediately," Mr. Gonzales said.

But Mayor Celso L. Lobregat said most of the reported crimes here had been resolved. "I have met with the business sector and I explained to them that as a mayor I am most concerned about these incidents, he said in a separate interview.

He said most of the killings here were believed to be connected with feud and personal grudge. He also ordered the police to put up checkpoints and road blocks and to strictly implement the campaign on illegal weapons.

Mr. Lobregat also announced that Supt. Mario Yanga was appointed as temporary chief of the local police force replacing Supt. Francisco Cristobal.

Yanga is also the regional police operations chief and a former head of the Zamboanga City Police Office. "My directive to Supt. Yanga is to strictly implement the gun ban in the city and to conduct round-the-clock inspections on all checkpoints in the city," he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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