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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said that the burned down vehicle was an Isuzu. This has been corrected.
PAMPANGA, Philippines – A pall of gloom descended in the municipality of Aparri in Cagayan province as it mourned the deaths of its vice mayor, Rommel Alameda, and his five companions who were ruthlessly killed in an ambush on Sunday, February 19.
“The Local Government Unit of Aparri expresses its deepest sympathy and sincerest condolences to the bereaved family of Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda and to the families of all the victims of the unspeakable crime. We pray for their souls and may they rest in peace,” in a statement posted via Facebook page of the town’s Mayor Bryan Dale Chan.
Messages of condolences and prayers poured in via social media for the bereaved families of the victims as they also cried for justice.
Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba and the Vice Mayor League of the Philippines-Cagayan chapter strongly condemned the killing of Alameda and his five companions.
“We condemn this cowardly and dastardly act done against Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda and his five companions all from Aparri. He is loved and respected by his constituents in Aparri since serving as a three-termer Sanggunian Bayan and on his 2nd term as Municipal Vice Mayor, a Nacionalista Party member of good standing, charismatic young leader and promising politician,” Mamba said in his statement.
“We are shocked and saddened that one of our officers has been added to the number of fallen victims to senseless killings. Vice Mayor Alameda was a kind person who has passion and commitment to serve his constituents. We join with their families in praying that justice will be served,” VMLP-Cagayan said.
Based on the statement released by the Police Regional Office – Cagayan Valley (PRO-2), the victims were ambushed in Sitio Kinacao, Baretbet, Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya on February 19 at 8:45 a.m.
The police reports said the suspects used a barrier from MV Duque Elementary School as they fired at the vehicle of the victims using different guns. The suspects then fled the crime scene heading towards Solano, Nueva Vizcaya in a white Mitsubishi Adventure with plate no. SFN 713.
In a related development, a similar vehicle that matched the description of that used by the suspects was found burned down at Brgy. Uddiawan, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya on Monday, February 20 at 4:20 am.
According to PRO-2, the incident was reported by Brgy. Uddiawan chair Jessie delos Reyes and the local authorities, arrived at the scene at around 4:30 am. Residents near the area also heard a gunshot prior to a strong explosion.
Police Lieutenant Colonel Saturnino Soriano of PRO-2 told Rappler on Monday that the burned vehicle had no plate number attached. As of this posting, Soriano said, they could not ascertain if the burned vehicle recovered in Solano was the same Mitsubishi Adventure used by the suspects in the killings.
The plate number on the vehicle used by the suspects, Soriano said, was registered under Nueva Vizcaya State University (NVSU) Bayombong campus.
“Upon recovery, wala na yung plate number. Nakarehistro sa isang Isuzu, di ko alam kung pick-up yun, under the name of NVSU diyan sa Bayombong. (There was no plate number on the burned vehicle. The plates on the vehicle of the suspects was registered to NVSU in Bayombong.) We will be having an update after this crime scene processing,” Soriano said.
Soriano added: “Matagal na palang naka-junk itong sasakyan na ito as per verification. Without plate number yan nung naka-junk, in 2018 pa ata yun na naka-junk yun. Without plate number nung naka-junk yun sa NVSU, di natin alam, matagal na ito, baka pinakilo na ito sa mga junk shop,” he added.
(As per verification, the plate number belonged to a junked, no-longer-used vehicle. Vehicles in the NVSU junk have no plate numbers on them. Records show that the vehicle had been junked since 2018. We don’t know the status of that vehicle. It could have been broken into pieces by now ,” he added.
Meanwhile, PRO-2 director Police Brigadier General Percival Rumbaoa ordered a “hot pursuit operation” and confirmed that the suspects were not members of the PNP as reports stated that the suspects were wearing a “PNP pixelized uniform.”
A special investigation task group was created to determine the motive behind the killing of Alameda and his companions.
Alameda, loved and respected by his constituents, was serving his second term as a vice mayor. He was also part of the board of directors of the VMLP-Cagayan chapter.
This is the second ambush of a local public official following the attack on San Fernando, Cebu mayor and her husband Brgy. Chairman Ricardo Reluya Jr. on January 22 where the latter died on the spot.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Tuesday, February 21 that they condemn the attacks on local officials following the killing of the Aparri vice mayor and five others.
In a statement, DILG also said street patrols will be conducted in a bid to prevent such crimes from happening.
“Tila nagiging garapal na ang mga kriminal na ito at wala ng pag-aatubili sa pagsasagawa ng kanilang masamang gawain. Hindi natin papayagang magpatuloy ang mga ganitong uri ng krimen at mamayani ang kasamaan,” the interior department added.
(It seems that these criminals are becoming brazen and have no hesitation in carrying out their evil deeds. We cannot allow these types of crimes to continue, and for evil to prevail.)
The DILG said that they are now checking reports that the suspects wore police uniforms.They also ordered the police to review their policies and processes on the issuance of licenses to own firearms.
“Kailangan ding mas maging masigasig ang PNP sa pagsasagawa ng Oplan Katok o pagbibisita sa mga bahay upang kusang isuko ang mga armas na expired na o hindi rehistrado,” the DILG said.
(The PNP also needs to be more diligent in conducting Oplan Katok or visiting houses to voluntarily surrender expired or unregistered weapons.) – With a report from Marco Luis Beech/ Rappler.com
Marco Luis Beech is a Rappler intern. Learn more about Rappler’s internship program here.
*All photos grabbed from Facebook