Palace downplays multiple killings: Only the 'prominent' are being killed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 12) — Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque assured crime rates have decreased amidst the recent spate of killings involving local officials. He said it only seems the number of deaths are rising, because the "prominent" are being targeted.

"Sunod-sunod [They're one after the other] because it's high profile but if you look at the statistics, the number of homicides have actually declined, marami lang kasing prominente na natatarget [there are just a lot of prominent people being targeted]," Roque said in a press briefing Thursday.

The spokesman cited the latest report from the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) that states crime rates in Metro Manila are down by 25% during the first six months of 2018, compared to the same period in the previous year.

A separate report by the Quezon City Police District indicated "crimes against persons (murder, homicide, physical injury, rape)" also decreased by 2.04% in the city, counting 96 incidents in June and 98 incidents in May of 2018.

The Palace's statement comes after Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga City Vice Mayor Al-Rashid Mohammad Ali of Sapa Sapa was killed by an unknown assailant Wednesday evening.

Ali's death served as the sixth reported killing of a local government official in recent days following the deaths of Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili, General Tinio, Nueva Ecija Mayor Ferdinand Bote, Vice Mayor Alex Lubigan of Trece Martires City, Cavite; Michael Magallanes, third councilor of Brgy. Sta. Catalina, Zamboanga City; and Nassif Palawan Bansil, municipal councilor of Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur.

Roque's sentiments echoed Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde's statement maintaining there is no underlying trend of killings in the country.

Albayalde said the recent assassinations were not related to each other , and assured the public there is no need to be alarmed.

Roque praised the PNP Chief's efforts in investigating the recent killings, citing the recent arrest of the suspects in the assassination of Mayor Bote.

"Yung pagkahuli ng dalawang gunmen [The arrest of the two gunmen] (responsible for Bote's killing) shows the resolve of General Albayalde to discharge his duty to investigate at the soonest time possible, and again we commend General Albayalde for this," he said.

Roque also reiterated the President's promise to explore all means to resolve the cases of the killings.

"What the President has promised is to discharge state obligation to speedily investigate, prosecute, and punish the perpetrators of these killings," he said.