GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – A mayor in South Cotabato province has called for tightened police security as he feared that he was being targeted for assassination after a close aide of his was shot near the town hall by still unidentified gunmen.
Polomolok Mayor Bernie Palencia’s executive secretary, Rhyolite Balili, survived the attack on Friday, March 17, which the local chief executive interpreted as a message of death for him.
He said his security escorts had observed two persons, apparently posing as peanut vendors, who entered an event at the town’s gymnasium taking a video of him earlier.
Palencia, who was an independent candidate in the May 9, 2022 local elections, said on Saturday, March 18, that the shooting was politically motivated as far as he was concerned.
He announced that the local government was offering a half-a-million pesos bounty for information leading to the identification of Balili’s attackers.
Police investigators said Balili was about to pass the town hall’s gate in a car when gunmen armed with pistols shot at him. He was wounded and rushed to a hospital.
Polomolok’s police chief, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Forro, said the shooting was clearly the work of an organized group based on how they executed the attack.
He said the gunmen were bold enough to carry out the shooting right at the town plaza, where many people and security personnel were present.
No suspects have been identified yet, but a deeper investigation is underway as of posting time.
As a precaution, Forro said that the carrying of guns and other weapons has been strictly prohibited in the town, especially at the municipal hall.
He said the use of helmets by motorcycle riders has also been suspended to easily identify suspects.
The shooting occurred as local authorities in the country intensified their security measures due to a series of violent incidents that claimed the lives of employees and local executives, including Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo. – Rappler.com
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