A spree of violence contrasted with presidential attempts at religious peace-making as the first week of July rolled on the blood of two mayors, two vice mayors, a councilor, and a radio broadcaster while President Rodrigo Duterte committed to mend fences with the Catholic Church.
July 1st saw President Duterte saying he will dialogue with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) after a week of rants against God and the Catholic Church.
But public attention on Duterte and the Church quickly shifted to news on the consecutive slayings of five government officials from five different places over a span of 10 days.
Tanauan City, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili was shot dead by an unidentified gunman on July 3 followed by General Tinio town, Nueva Ecija Mayor Ferdinand Bote who was gunned down on July 4.
Four days later, on July 7, two other murders occurred. Unidentified assailants shot and killed Trece Martirez, Cavite Vice-Mayor Alex Lubigan and in Zamboanga City while Councilor Michael Magallanes was killed by an unidentified gunman.
Al Rashid Mohammad Ali, another vice-mayor, this time from Sapa-Sapa town in Tawi-tawi was shot and killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen on July 12.
Eight days later, on July 20, Albay province blocktime radio broadcaster Joey Llana was shot dead just outside his home.
The League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) requested for a dialogue with President Duterte, stating that they will ask the Chief Executive to restore their power of supervision over the police.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Oscar Agbayalde told the media that local officials should hire additional security if they think their lives are in danger.
FROM STALLED TO ARREST WARRANTS
Meanwhile, the stalled peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) faced a new crease after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana pushed the possibility of conducting peace talks at the local level, without involving NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison and the NDFP.
In spite of the glitch, both the government and the NDFP said that the door to peace negotiations remained open, even as the Justice Department said on the first week of July that it will rearrest NDF consultants that have been granted provisional freedom.
As July came to a close, the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court issued arrest warrants on former Bayan Muna party-list Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza.
The first week of July ignited debates and protest actions against Charter Change and Federalism, after the Consultative Committee (ConCom)—tasked by the President to craft a new Charter—finally approved a draft constitution for a proposed Federal Republic of the Philippines.
The 22-man ConCom recommended a stand-alone plebiscite to be conducted in 2019 to give the public time to understand the new Charter.
A June 15 to 21 Pulse Asia survey showed, however, that two out of every three Filipinos rejected the proposal to shift to a federal system of government.
Senators unanimously agreed to oppose any postponement of the 2019 midterm elections to set the stage for Charter Change.
PACQUIAO, GMA RETURNS
For one day in July, all talk of politics and killings came to a standstill as Filipinos spent the day watching Senator-boxing legend Manny Pacquiao beat Argentine Lucas Matthysse to be the new World Boxing Association welterweight champion.
On July 15, Pacquiao won the bout by technical knockout on the seventh round. It was his first TKO in nine years.
More than a week later, on July 23, another bout took place in full view of Filipinos waiting for the State of the Nation Address of President Duterte.
A political boxing of sorts for the House Speakership unfolded, with former President and Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wresting the title from then House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
During his third SONA, delivered after the hour-long Speakership ruckus, Duterte reiterated his vow to pursue a relentless and chilling war against illegal drugs.
He also said that he would sign the Bangsamoro Organic Law immediately after his office receives the approved version from the Lower House.
The President called on the Senate to pass with dispatch the National Land Use Act to address once and for all the need to rationalize land use in the country.
BOL, BASILAN BOMBING
Just before July ended, the country bade goodbye to essayist-historian Carmen Guerrero Nakpil who died at the age of 96 and 80-year-old art critic Alice Guillermo.
Over in Marilao, Bulacan, striking workers of NutriAsia, maker of condiments, were violently dispersed by police and company guards.
Duterte appointed a new Ombudsman in the person of Associate Justice Samuel Martires and signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
And on the last day of July, 10 people perished after a van loaded with an improvised explosive devise (IED) blew up in Basilan. Police said the bombing was an Abu Sayyaf attack, dispelling rumors that the incident marked the first suicide bombing in the country. G