Any way you look at it, the killing of three top local officials in three separate incidents last week indicates a breakdown of law and order that should be thoroughly investigated by authorities.
The latest victim was Vice Mayor Alexander Lubigan of Trece Martires City in Cavite province, whose vehicle was peppered by bullets by gunmen in broad daylight on Saturday (July 7), killing him instantly.
Lubigan is the third high official of a local government unit (LGU) to be killed in a week after Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan City, Batangas province, and Mayor Ferdinand Bote of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija province.
While authorities have tended to downplay the assassinations as isolated incidents, the fact is that these have sent chills down the spines of the citizenry as the victims were high-profile individuals.
If even those with security escorts could be killed in a brazen manner in broad daylight, how could ordinary citizens expect any protection from criminals intent on murder on mayhem?
Malacañang is correct in urging the leadership of the Philippine National Police to conduct a fair investigation and spare no effort in getting to the bottom of this latest crime: "We must band together and put an end to the worrisome incidents of violence involving local politicians,” according to the presidential spokesman.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of the PNP, also called on authorities to bring those responsible for the three local officials’ deaths, including the masterminds, before the bar of justice: “Let’s hope and pray that the successive killings of elected officials are not symptomatic of a bloody midterm election next year.”
What's disturbing is that at least 10 town and city mayors have been killed since President Duterte took office in June 2016.
Is politics behind this spate of killings? That's the theory advanced by the police in the case of vice-mayor Tubigan. Whatever the reason for this and other previous incidents, elected public officials now fear for their lives when they venture out of their homes.
The climate of fear is extremely worrisome as the latest killing may not be the last unless authorities are able to bring the perpetrators to justice.