Mayor, police chief seek community’s help to curb criminality in Dumaguete

By Judaline F. Partlow

DUMAGUETE CITY, Feb. 25 (PNA) – Amid rising public criticism over the perceived “unsafe” environment prevailing in Dumaguete, the capital city of Negros Oriental, Mayor Manuel Sagarbarria and police chief James Goforth have appealed for strong community support and participation to help curb criminality.

Both Sagarbarria and Goforth admitted that the police and the city government cannot do it all by themselves, referring to maintaining peace and order and reducing criminality in Dumaguete.

They said an increase in crime rate is not unusual for a progressing city with a growing population and a host of other considerations and hence, the need for the community cooperation and participation in crime-fighting.

The calls were sounded off repeatedly on separate instances and at different venues following the series of shooting incidents in Dumaguete City since the start of 2014.

Public clamor for tighter security measures continues to rise over the broadcast and social media, which Mayor Sagarbarria has lamented, saying it is unfair for the people to say that the city government and the police are not doing enough to address criminality, specifically the illegal drugs problem in the city.

An official police report presented in a multi-sectoral forum Monday evening at the Marian Priests’ Center at the Cathedral compound in Dumaguete showed that from Jan. 1 to Feb. 24, this year, a total of nine shooting incidents were recorded in the city.

Four of them took place in January and five in February, with the latest incident on Monday resulting in the killing of a man believed to have been previously involved in the illegal numbers game “swertres.”

Of the nine cases, five were related to the illegal drugs trade while the other four had different motives, said Goforth in the forum Monday evening. He did not elaborate which cases were drug-related.

Five of the victims in the shooting incidents died while the others were injured, Goforth added.

Of the four shooting cases in January, two of the victims were killed, namely, Elmo Andres Catadman and Carl Bryan Catan, who were gunned down on separate instances by suspects riding in tandem on motorcycles.

Timothy Fleischer Angar and Leomar Mandeoya, meanwhile, were also shot and wounded in the same month. Both cases were considered solved by the police. Those of Catadman and Catan remain unsolved.

In February, four of the five victims of shooting were killed, namely, Neil Bryan Callao, Rommel Calidguid, Pedro Miguiabas and Louie Barrera.

Arjay Sitoy Legaspi, the fifth victim, survived the shooting attack.

Three of the five cases in February remain unsolved, one was considered solved and the other, the Barrera shooting, is still pending investigation.

Supt. Goforth explained in the forum that based on guidelines and parameters of the Philippine National Police (PNP), cases deemed solved by the police include those wherein the victim and his/her family are not interested to pursue or file a case, when a case has already been filed in court against a suspect who is still at large, and when a suspect has been arrested and charged in court.

Goforth’s explanation comes as questions from some quarters surfaced on why they have not heard of reports of arrests of suspects in the shooting incidents in Dumaguete.

The police chief admitted it is difficult for them to pursue a case against a potential suspect if the victim and his or her family do not cooperate or are not interested in filing a case against the perpetrator.

Also, once a case has been filed against a suspect, the case is closed as far as the police are concerned since it is now in the hands of the court.

Both Mayor Sagarbarria and Supt. Goforth appealed for the public to cooperate, saying crime prevention is everybody’s responsibility.

They lamented that oftentimes, witnesses refuse to cooperate with the police even though it was very obvious that they were present when the crime was perpetrated.

According to the mayor, if the public continues to remain in an environment of fear, it will allow the perpetrators to continue with their lawlessness. (PNA)