MANILA, Philippines – Killings of local officials in the Philippines opened the 3rd year of President Rodrigo Duterte in office, as 4 were gunned down from Monday to Saturday, July 2 to July 7.
Monday saw the killing of Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan City, Batangas, who was sniped during their city’s flag-raising ceremony in broad daylight. With the bullet piercing through his heart, he was declared dead on arrival in the hospital.
Infamous for parading arrested drug suspects around his city, Halili was stripped of police powers in November 2017 after government linked him to illegal drugs.
Just a day after Halili’s death, another local leader was gunned down.
In Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, riding-in-tandem gunmen ambushed General Tinio town mayor Ferdinand Bote as he rode a car out of the National Irrigation Administration. At least 18 bullets were fired at Bote’s vehicle. Like Tinio, Bote was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
No killings of officials came in the 3 days that followed, but there was bloodbath on Saturday.
Newly elected Barangay Councilor Michael Magallanes was riding his motorbike to a feeding program at around 7:20 am in Zamboanga City on Saturday, when he was killed by an unidentified gunman.
In the afternoon the same day, Trece Martires Vice Mayor Alexander Lubigan was killed in a shooting attack by gunmen aboard a Mitsubishi Montero, just after he boarded his Toyota Hilux in front of the city’s Korean Hospital. Lubigan and his driver were declared dead on the spot.
As of Sunday, July 8, police have not yet caught any suspects to the high-profile killings.
In a statement on Saturday, Liberal Party president Senator Francis Pangilinan slammed these recent deaths.
“What is going on? Are these deliberate and orchestrated attempts at creating an atmosphere of lawlessness to justify strongman rule?” Pangilinan asked.
He then urged the Philippine National Police’s “swift, sure, and lawful move” to “bring the killers behind bars,” as well as their visibility especially in key critical areas “to prevent another bloody incident.”
By Rappler’s count, at least 15 mayors and vice mayors have been shot dead since Duterte took office in 2016. Under his term, 33 people have been killed daily, apart from killings fron unrelenting police anti-drug operations.
Duterte ran and won the presidency with the bold promise of ending crime and illegal drugs in 3 to 6 months. While other crimes have gone down in the Philippines, the homicide count continues to soar. – Rappler.com
Editor’s Note: In an earlier version of this story, Rappler reported that the gunmen who killed Trece Martires Vice Mayor Alexander Lubigan were boarding a Toyota Fortuner. They were aboard a Mitsubishi Montero. We have corrected this error.