Nueva Ecija mayor Bote killed over P96-M ecotourism contract – PNP

Rambo Talabong
Nueva Ecija mayor Bote killed over P96-M ecotourism contract – PNP
Mayor Ferdinand Bote was allegedly ordered killed by a certain Christian Saquilabon over a project for the Minalungao National Park in General Tinio

MANILA, Philippines – General Tinio, Nueva Ecija Mayor Ferdinand Bote was allegedly ordered killed by a certain Christian Saquilabon over a P96-million contract to develop a national park in his town, the Philippine National Police (PNP) announced on Monday, July 16.

Leading the presentation of the case in Camp Crame, PNP Central Luzon head Chief Superintendent Amador Corpus said Saquilabon was named as the “mastermind” in the murder by the two suspects they recently nabbed in Camarines Sur and a recent surrenderer.

Saquilabon, Corpus said, was a “contractor” of the winning party in a multimillion-peso contract to develop the Minalungao National Park in General Tinio. Police have yet to release the name of his company.

It supposedly got to the point that Saquilabon wanted to have Bote killed because, as Corpus said, citing one of the suspects, “sobra na ginigipit sila” (they were given a very hard time) in the implementation of the project.

MINALUNGAO NATIONAL PARK. Visitors of the park in Nueva Ecija can swim in the river or ride a raft. File photo by Joshua Berida

The Minalungao National Park is a protected area in the Philippines, described by a Philippine travel site as a hidden gem for ecotourism enthusiasts. It has a river and a limestone-lined cave.

As the mayor, Bote had both direct and indirect influence on the approval of permits for the development to move forward. Pressed to give details of Bote’s alleged intervention, Corpus said they have yet to do further digging.

Despite calling Saquilabon the “mastermind,” the PNP also admitted there is a possibility that he was just following an order from a higher-level suspect.

Saquilabon, according to Corpus, is a native of Nueva Ecija. He is still at large.

Gun-for-hire killers

PRESENTATION. Chief Superintendent Amador Corpus shows CCTV clips on the killing of Mayor Ferdinand Bote. Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler

Bote’s murder is a case of a gun-for-hire killing, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said when he took his turn at the podium.

Albayalde said the suspects in custody – Florencio Suarez, Robert Gumatay, and Arnold Gamboa – belong to the same group in Nueva Ecija. A certain Jun Fajardo and 3 other unidentified suspects allegedly conspired with them to kill the mayor.

The PNP, Albayalde said, is inclined to believe that the gun-for-hire team has no other members, as hired killers usually operate in “small groups.”

 

Saquilabon allegedly paid the group a total of P25,000 to kill Bote, Corpus said.

Bote was gunned down last July 3, just as he was leaving the National Irrigation Administration office in Cabanatuan City. CCTV camera clips presented during Monday’s briefing suggest that the mayor was trailed by his killers before being shot at least 18 times.

PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Director Roel Obusan said they are already tracking down Saquilabon and the other suspects. Obusan added that “airtight” cases are waiting for the suspects once they are captured. – 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.