ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY, Philippines – Authorities stepped up security measures in Zamboanga Sibugay after gunmen shot and killed a village councilor in what was feared to be a case of election violence in the province.
Police said Crestituto Halop, a village councilor of Guinoman in Diplahan town, was attacked by two gunmen in the barangay past 11 am on Thursday, April 28.
The still unidentified gunmen were riding in tandem on a motorcycle, witnesses said.
The killing came just days after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Zamboanga Sibugay said authorities were looking into information about a group of “armed goons” that supposedly arrived in the province two weeks before the elections.
Lawyer Ahmad Taib Musa, the provincial elections supervisor, said Halop was shot while he was standing outside the barangay hall of Guinoman.
Musa said the killing was a cause for concern to the Comelec but “it is too early to say that the incident was election-related.”
He said police were still investigating the gun attack and were looking into several possible motives.
Colonel Albert Larubis, police director for Zamboanga Sibugay, said authorities were checking reports about the presence of an armed group in Diplahan town.
Larubis did not rule out the possibility that the killing was election-related, but assured that the police have put in place measures to prevent more violence, especially in the days leading to the national and local elections.
Ironically, Diplahan, and at least 11 other towns in Zamboanga Sibugay, were on the “green category” list of the Comelec. Green means authorities have no security concerns in a particular area.
Until Halop’s murder, only four towns in the province – Alicia, Mabuhay, Siay, and Tungawan – were being closely watched by the Comelec and the police because of local political rivalries.
Alicia town was placed under the “orange category,” which meant increased security. The remaining three municipalities were on the “yellow” list or areas that were closely being monitored. – Rappler.com
Antonio Manaytay is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship