MANILA, Philippines – Unknown assailants shot dead the controversial mayor of Urbiztondo, Pangasinan Saturday morning, June 7, weeks after he sought additional police security due to alleged threats to his life.
Mayor Ernesto Balolong, a Liberal party member, was in the thick of preparations for the wedding of his son, Councilor Volter Balolong, when the assassins peppered him with bullets in front of a supermarket located near his residence.
Initial police reports said one of his police escorts and a civilian were also killed while a supermarket employee and a bystander were wounded by stray bullets.
It was a cold-blooded murder that is fast becoming the norm in this sleepy 3rd class agricultural municipality.
The town had witnessed several murders in the past few years, including the killings of a school principal that has remained unsolved. There were reports that local politicians themselves maintain private armies and guns-for-hire, either for their protection or for the conduct of criminal activities.
Police reports said Balolong was overseeing the preparations of his son’s wedding on Sunday, when two armed men alighted from a van and began shooting him. He sustained almost 30 gunshot wounds.
As of this writing, police are still looking for possible motives in the killing.
Balolong had his share of controversies, from getting involved in the misuse of public funds, to alleged illegal possession of firearms and possible links to several murders, including a lawyer of the Public Attorney’s Office.
In 2012, the National Bureau of Investigation raided his house on Rizal Street in the town proper and confiscated high-powered firearms and ammunitions.
He got off the hook, however, after he was able to prove that the cache of firearms were all licensed. In late 2013, NBI agents conducted another raid on his house after a self-confessed gunman Otto Guialaludin, who was Balolong’s former bodyguard, admitted he was behind 3 high-profile killings: the gun-slaying of the former Lingayen City Vice Mayor Ramon Arcinue and his wife; PAO lawyer Dante Untalan and Pasibe-East school principal Herminigildo Sabangan. The suspect allegedly confessed to being Balolong’s henchman.
Recovered were 21 firearms, including M-16 and M-14 rifles.
He was arrested but he posted bail of P160,000 after he was initially charged with tampering with the serial numbers of the firearms.
In April 2014, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ‘s Committee on Good Government and Accountability of Public Officers recommended his suspension for 60 days due to an administrative case for grave misconduct and abuse of authority, among others.
This was the second time the provincial council sought his suspension. In August 2012, he was also meted with another suspension in connection with the alleged illegal withdrawal of funds from a loan obtained from the Philippine National Bank. Malacañang however set aside the suspension.
Balolong said the charges against him were all politically-motivated.
The vice- mayor, Martin Raul Sison II, is a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition. – Rappler.com