ILOCOS NORTE, Philippines – The killing on Monday, December 6, of a councilor of Sarrat town in Ilocos Norte has raised alarm bells because of the spate of shootings in the province.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, December 7, Colonel Christopher Abrahano, director of the Ilocos Norte Provincial Police Office (INPPO), said Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc has ordered a reassessment of the peace and security situation here. Manotoc found the rise in shootings in the past two months in the province as “alarming.”
Abrahano said that as of December 6, INPPO had logged at least 25 shooting incidents in the province.
On Monday, retired police officer and Sangguniang Bayan Member Apolonio Medrano, 69, was the latest to be killed. He was gunned down in broad daylight just a few meters away from the Sarrat town hall after he attended a flag raising ceremony. According to a police report, the municipal councilor was shot while he was boarding his vehicle.
Medrano sustained gunshot wounds in different parts of his body. He was rushed to the local hospital but later died, according to a police report.
The gunman, who was wearing a jacket, left the scene using a motorcycle, based on the statements of some witnesses.
This was also the most recent assassination try on Medrano. On April 26, 2017, he survived an assassination attempt. In 2004, he was linked to the killing of local radio commentator Rogelio “Roger” Mariano but was acquitted by a trial court in 2010.
On November 9, an engineer was also shot dead inside a car accessory store in San Nicolas town. A quarry checker of the Solsona local government survived an ambush by a riding-in-tandem while he was on duty on November 13.
Abrahano assured local residents that the peace and security situation in the province was “maintained” and that the shootings were “isolated and that the police are on top of the situation.”
Immediately after Medrano was killed, the INPPO formed a special investigation task force.
“We have interviewed several witnesses and they have brought us to the identification of two persons of interest,” Abrahano said, adding that the two were connected with “gun-for-hire groups.”
As there were fears that violence would escalate in province, especially during the 2022 elections, the INPPO said it was looking at “politicians who may be coddling gun-for-hire personalities.”
Manotoc warned politicians that violence would not be tolerated and that Ilocos Norte would strive for a “peaceful and orderly campaign and elections” in the 2022 polls.
On Tuesday, the local government of Sarrat town led by Mayor Remigio Medrano – who said he has no relation to the slain councilor – had offered a P500,000 reward to those who could offer any leads to capture the persons who shot the councilor.
Meanwhile PNP chief General Dionardo Carlos on Tuesday, also ordered a speedy investigation into the killing of Medrano
“I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the family of Councilor Medrano. Our investigators are exerting all effort to uncover this case. Let’s see where the evidence will lead us in this investigation,” Carlos said in a statement sent to reporters on Tuesday.
According to the PNP chief, the police cannot conclude if Medrano’s killing was election-related: “So far, it’s early to say that this is election-related.” – Rappler.com
John Michael Mugas is a Luzon-based fellow and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.