The murder of councilman Reynaldo Dagsa and car dealers Emerson Lozano and Venson Evangelista are as disquieting as disquieting can be. Fact remains that these murders came in close proximity of each other, almost displaying a sort of brashness on the part of the killers. Equally disturbing are the low crime volume pointed out by Philippine National Police statistics in both 2009 and 2010, which these recent events can only belie.
Rallying immediately against this brazen disregard for human life pundits and government officials offered what is, by all intents and purposes, a number of predictable rhetoric.
Senator Franklin Drilon straight away batted for stricter gun control—as though firearms, by themselves, move and go about town killing people sans the help of a human trigger finger. Even TIME’s managing editor Richard Stengel chose that same line of thought when, in the wake of the recent Loughner murders in Tucson, he wrote: “Words don’t kill people; guns do” (TIME, Jan. 24, 2001 issue).
It bears reiterating of course that it is people who kill people, unless you’re a victim of, say, a shark attack off the coast of Mindoro. Guns, a Bowie knife, metal tubes, poison, a ballpoint pen or a quiet push off a six-storey ledge are but varying ways to commit murder. I have yet to see a Glock .40 or a petty thief’s rusty balisong sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Hollywood has as much to do with our knowledge of murder as some person’s psychotic episode or display of political envy or personal greed and jealousy. Flip through a channel and everything from CSI Miami to Criminal Minds is a practical handbook on how to commit murder—serial style. Let’s not even go to the Internet.
Some pundits, on the other hand, tell of stories that border on paranoia. Conspiracy theorists aver that the murders of Dagsa, Lozano and Evangelista is a scheme to destabilize the administration of President Nonoy Aquino, positing webs and cobwebs of intriguing plots that could easily win a Nick Joaquin Literary Award for fiction.
One barbershop talk I personally overheard even went to the extent of pointing out the father’s links with the Marcoses as a reason for the young Lozano’s demise. “It’s another Marcos thing, you know,” a barber said with a smirk, bragging as though he is in the know.
The temptation no doubt to think of conspiracies will always be there, having proven in more ways than government dares to admit that such politically motivated machinations had existed and had been played out. Having crossed the line of sane reasoning, one even asserted that the car dealer murders were a form of serial killing. He could be right, but then again, it bears no stamp of a very English Jack the Ripper.
Answering the question “why” only proves difficult at this point, although one thing is certain: murder stories are once more the breakfast fare for the day, and with very little information to go on as to its motives, the public has no choice but to speculate. The problem with uninformed, or worse, misinformed speculation is that it always clings on this worst-case scenario: Political conspiracy to destabilize government—the worst of it being a conspiracy of silence.
Delusion always masquerades itself as truth. Rumours have a way of being regarded as non-fiction narratives, spread far and wide through excellent rumour mongering techniques, like intense eye-to-eye contact complete with differing verbal intonations and hand swings to boot. The more the stories are inflated, the more they are believable. Let’s not even talk about from whom the story cometh. A famous commentator can easily cull a thousand or so listeners or readers into labyrinthine commentaries no truer in substance than they are necessary.
Violence and murder exist, and politics and a culture of impunity have a lot to do with their cause. Unless government beefs up its intelligence and police support, and opens its doors for right information to be had, speculation will proliferate. They act like hallucinogens on a public salivating for “facts.” This is destabilization of the worst kind: When government itself gives the public reason to doubt its intentions because of silence, or worse, nonchalance.
JOEL PABLO SALUD is the chief editor of the Philippines Graphic magazine, the country’s top newsweekly publication under the ALC Group of Publications, which include the BusinessMirror. He is a member of the Unyon ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) and the Manila Critics Circle.