EXPLAINER. Why the slow progress in probe on lawyer Joey Luis Wee's murder. The good news: Police say Cebu City is 'still very safe.'

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LAWYER Joey Luis Wee, 51, was entering Alchi Business Center on J. Panis St. in Kasambagan, Cebu City when he was shot and killed last November 21, a Monday. The killer and his companion were seen fleeing on a motorcycle.

The initial report of daylight execution was followed only by condemnation of the killing by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City chapter. None yet on the progress of the investigation.

Thus, last Wednesday, December 2, during the regular session of the Cebu City Council, interest in the city police office report on the state of peace and order perked up among the councilors who expected an update on the murder of the lawyer.

Lieutenant Colonel Wilbert Parilla, city police deputy for operations who represented the police director, did not say whether they already have a suspect or motive for the killing of Atty. Wee. And he did not tell the councilors how soon they will have one.

'SAFE, MANAGEABLE.' Citing the 2020 numbers on major crimes in the city, as compared to the same three months of the last quarter in 2019, the police official they've mostly gone down, summing up with the now familiar assessment: "Cebu City is still very safe. Crime is manageable."

A few bits of information though may give some hope of progress on the Wee case sometime in the future:

[1] A task group has been formed comprising of representatives from the police units CIDG, regional intelligence, and the city police intelligence. Although Atty. Wee's family preferred the NBI to investigate, Parilla said, the police are doing their own inquiry through the task group. The group was to hold its first meeting Thursday, December 3, with backtracking into two weeks of his movements before the murder as one of its first tasks.

[2] They have reverted to using motorcycles for Swat personnel, instead of cars, presumably for hot pursuits. But that's for future murders -- or the killing of Wee, but only if police would get to have a suspect and need to chase him.

MOTORCYCLES, CCTV CAMERAS. The not-so-good news:

[1] Half the number of motorcycles, not specified, donated by the City Government to the police are no longer running and need repairs, request for which have still not been acted upon. Councilor Phillip Zafra, who heads the committee on public order, said the mayor has promised him the City will buy "all the things the police need." It might start with the repair of the broken-down motorcycles.

[2] Many CCTV cameras and public address system, installed on major streets during the term of then mayor (2010-2016) now Vice Mayor Mike Rama, are no longer functioning. They would be of great help, Lieutenant Colonel Parilla said, citing as examples the road recording equipment of the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu, some of which are strung with their traffic light system. No councilor said that repair or purchase of Cebu City's CCTV cameras is part of the budget for 2021.

NOT JUST LAWYERS. Presiding officer Rama expressed fear for the safety not just of lawyers but also of "public servants like ourselves."

Most of the "sensational" killings in Cebu in the past few years have been of lawyers, a few whom were linked to illegal drugs -- or, more precisely, defending suspects in the illegal drug trade -- or for handling "big" cases. And police record of solving or clearing the crime where the dead victim is a lawyer has not been encouraging to those who worry about not being safe in the city.

UNIMPRESSIVE RECORD. Police haven't come up with an arrested or convicted suspect in the shooting to death of, among others, lawyers Jonah John Ungab (February 19, 2018), Mary Ann Castro, also a prosecutor (January 17, 2019), Noel Archival (February 18, 2014) or Salvador Solima and his wife (July 2, 2018). Cebu has had its share of lawyer victims: a total of 43 in the entire country since 2016.

One Cebu lawyer escaped injury last September 2, 2019 from a hail of bullets outside the court building but has since fled and gone into hiding. Another lawyer was ambushed twice and survived, the second assault staged only a few weeks before Wee was killed.

Rama is right about public officials too as possible victims. But anyone can be gunned down in a society where inability to catch and punish the killers creates a climate of impunity.

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