Tanauan City mayor Halili shot dead during flag ceremony

Rambo Talabong

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Tanauan City mayor Halili shot dead during flag ceremony
(6th UPDATE) Antonio Halili is gunned down before the singing of the national anthem ends

MANILA, Philippines (6th UPDATE) – Tanauan City, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili was shot dead Monday morning, July 2, during the weekly flag raising ceremony in front of the city hall.

The 72-year-old Halili was rushed to the CP Reyes Medical Center where he was declared dead at 8:45 am, Calabarzon police director Chief Superintendent Edward Carranza said. The mayor succumbed to the gunshot wound on his chest.

Police are still trying to pin down the motive for Halili’s killing. Carranza has formed a special investigation task group (SITG) to look into the murder.

In a Facebook video posted by Tanauan City Public Information Officer Gerard Laresma, the sound of a gunshot was heard towards the end of the singing of the national anthem.

FINAL MOMENTS. Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili sings the national anthem shortly before he was shot on July 2, 2018. Photo from Tanauan City Information Officer

Halili gained notoriety for implementing a “walk of shame” for drug suspects back in 2016, when he paraded drug personalities for everyone to see. The practice was slammed by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) because parading suspects is unconstitutional.

He was stripped of powers to supervise local police in November 2017 after being linked by the government to illegal drugs. (READ: PDEA: Drug-linked governors, congressmen, mayors to be named next)

Earlier in October 2016, then Senior Superintendent Robert Baesa asked Halili to surrender because of his alleged links to the narcotics trade. The mayor refused to surrender. 

Condemning the killing

In a statement, Human Rights Watch denounced the killing of Halili.

“The killing this morning of Tanauan City mayor Antonio Halili, like the thousands of killings in the “war on drugs” of the Duterte administration, demands immediate and thorough investigation by Philippine authorities,” HRW said. 

“While we did not agree with Mayor Halili’s method of dealing with crime and illegal drugs in his city, his murder is condemnable. He may have deprived many Tanauan residents of due process but that doesn’t mean he should be deprived of it too,” the group added.

HRW continued, “We reiterate our call for an end to the culture of impunity in the Philippines where thousands have been killed in extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects, activists, members of indigenous tribes, journalists, priests, and politicians like Mayor Halili. The only way that can happen is if perpetrators – including Mayor Halili’s killers – are investigated, arrested, charged and tried in a court of law.” – with a report from Tina Ganzon-Ozaeta/Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.