Mayors, vice mayors killed under Duterte gov’t

Jodesz Gavilan

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Mayors, vice mayors killed under Duterte gov’t
(9th UPDATE) Rappler tallies at least 10 vice mayors and 17 mayors slain since July 2016

MANILA, Philippines – The number of slain local chief executives in the Philippines continues to rise under the Duterte administration. 

Rappler tallies at least 10 vice mayors and 18 mayors slain​, ​based on media reports between July 2016 and December 2021. With the exception of Albuera, Leyte, Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., who was shot dead while detained, all were killed while holding office.

1. Pamplona Vice Mayor Aaron Sampaga – August 2016 

Pamplona Vice Mayor Aaron Sampaga was killed by unidentified gunmen on August 5, 2016 in Cagayan province. He was 3-term Pamplona mayor before his sister Arnie Angelica Sampaga was elected mayor during the May 2016 elections.

2. Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom – October 2016

Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom was killed in an alleged shootout with state operatives on October 28, 2016 in Makilala, North Cotabato. He was flagged down at a checkpoint “based on information that the group will transport illegal drugs to Maguindanao and Cotabato area.”

Dimaukom was one of the local officials on the drug list of President Duterte.

3. Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr – November 2016

Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr was killed in a reported shootout inside his jail cell at the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail in Baybay City on November 5, 2016. Authorities alleged they were serving a search warrant when he resisted.

Espinosa arrested by police in October 2016 in connection with violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition after a PNP raid in his house yielded 11 kilos of suspected methamphetamine worth an estimated P88 million, and high-powered weapons.

He and his son, Kerwin, were among the first alleged drug personalities named Duterte.

4. Datu Saudi Ampatuan Vice Mayor Anwar Sindatok – November 2016

Datu Saudi Ampatuan Vice Mayor Anwar Sindatok was entertaining guests inside his home in Maguindanao when an unidentified suspect shot him at close range on November 26, 2016.

Initially elected as the town’s number one councilor, Sindatok assumed the post of vice mayor after the previous vice mayor, Anida Dimaukom, assumed the post of mayor to replace the slain Dimaukom.

5. Pantar Mayor Mohammad Exchan Limbona – December 2016

Pantar, Lanao del Norte Mayor Mohammad Exchan Limbona was killed in an ambush in Iligan City on December 29, 2016. He was with his wife, daughter, and two escorts when an unidentified group open fired at his vehicle in Barangay Dalipuga.

Local police said that possible motive for the killing could either be politics or rido, a family feud.

6. Marcos Mayor Arsenio Agustin – June 2017

Marcos town Mayor Arsenio Agustin was gunned down by unidentified men in his town in Ilocos Norte on June 3, 2017 while he inspecting a water impounding project. He and his driver, Mark Valencia, were declared dead on arrival.

7. Bien Unido Mayor Gisela Bendong-Boniel – June 2017

Bien Unido, Bohol Mayor Gisela Bendon-Boniel was believed to have been abducted and killed on June 7, 2016 allegedly by her husband, Bohol Board Member Niño Rey Boniel, over marital issues. Her remains are yet to be found.

8. Balete, Batangas Mayor Leovino Hidalgo – June 2017

Balete, Batangas Mayor Leovino Hidalgo was gunned down by unidentified men on June 10, 2017 during a local sports event, according to a GMA News Online report.

9. Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog – July 2017

Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 14 others, including his wife Susan, brother Octavio Jr, and sister Mona, were killed in a police raid on July 30, 2017. State agents were allegedly serving a search warrant when Parojinog’s security personnel attacked.

The Parojinogs, an influential clan in Misamis Occidental, are among those named by Duterte in his list of local government offiicals allegedly involved in the drug trade.

10. Roxas, Oriental Mindoro Vice Mayor Jackson Cinco Dy – September 2017

Roxas town, Oriental Mindoro Vice Mayor Jackson Cinco Dy was gunned down by unidentified men on September 22, 2017, according to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report. The assailants fled using a motorcycle.

11. Ronda, Cebu Vice Mayor Jonah John Ungab – February 2018

Ronda, Cebu Vice Mayor Jonah John Ungab was killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire at his vehicle on February 19, 2018 along S. Osmeña Street, Cebu City. He is the lawyer of suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.

12. Buenavista Mayor Ronald Lowell Tirol – May 2018

Buenavista, Bohol Mayor Ronald Lowell Tirol was shot at close range by an unidentified man while inside the town’s cockpit arena on May 27, 2018. He was declared dead on arrival.

13. Tanuan City Mayor Antonio Halili – July 2018

Tanauan City, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili was shot dead on July 2, 2018 during a weekly flag-raising ceremony in front of city hall. He grabbed headlines for implementing a “walk of shame” for drug suspects back in 2016, which was slammed by the Commission on Human Rights because parading suspects was unconstitutional.

In November 2017, after the Duterte administration linked him to illegal drugs, the National Police Commission stripped Halili of powers to supervise the local police. Halili refused to heed calls for him to surrender.

14. General Tinio Mayor Ferdinand Bote – July 2018

Mayor Ferdinand Bote of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija, was killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen on July 3, 2018 while coming from the National Irrigation Administration office in Cabanatuan City. He was declared dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.

15. Trece Martires Vice Mayor Alex Lubigan – July 2018

Vice Mayor Alex Lubigan of Trece Martires, Cavite was shot dead on Saturday, July 7, in front of the Korean Hospital in Indang Road, Barangay Luciano.

An initial spot report stated that he was on board a black Toyota Hilux when a black Montero fired at the victim’s vehicle “and resulted in his unfortunate death.”

16. Sapa Sapa Vice Mayor Al Rashid Mohammad Ali – July 2018

Sapa-Sapa, Tawi-Tawi, Vice Mayor Al Rashid Mohammad Ali was shot dead on July 11, 2018, by riding-in-tandem suspects while on board his vehicle​ in Zamboanga City. A family member said the victim came from a mall.

17. Ronda Mayor Mariano Blanco III – September 2018

Mayor Mariano Blanco III of Ronda, Cebu was shot dead on September 5, 2018, inside his office at the town hall. A police official said Blanco, who had been sleeping at his office for a while already, was shot by 4 unidentified men.

Blanco was linked to illegal drugs under the Duterte administration.

18. Supiden Mayor Alexander Buquing – October 2018

Mayor Alexander Buquing of Sudipen, La Union, was ambushed by unidentified men on board a white pick-up on October 1, 2018 while on his way home with his wife, Vice Mayor Mary Joy Buquing, driver Boni Depdepen, and police guard Police Officer II Rolando Juanbe.

Mayor Buquing, his driver, and bodyguard were declared dead on arrival at separate hospitals.

19. Balaoan Vice Mayor Al-fred Concepcion – November 2018

Vice Mayor Al-fred Concepcion of Balaoan, La Union was killed when his convoy was ambushed by unknown assailants on November 14, 2018 while on his way to the municipal hall. His security escort was also killed in the incident. His daughter, Mayor Aleli Concepcion, survived but suffered injuries.

20. San Andres Vice Mayor Sergio “Popoy” Emprese  – August 2019

Vice Mayor Sergio “Popoy” Emprese of San Andres, Quezon was shot dead at his home on August 20, 2019 as he was resting in the living room. Police reports SAID that he “was lying on a sofa at their living room” in their Lucena City house when the killer “surreptitiously entered the unlocked gate and opened the main door of their house.”

21. Batuan Vice Mayor Charlie Yuson – October 2019

Assailants gunned down Vice Mayor Charlie Yuson III of Batuan, Masbate, while he was having breakfast outside a house in Manila on October 9, 2019. He was brought to a hospital but died while being treated. His two companions were also injured.

22. Clarin Mayor David Navarro – October 2019

Mayor David Navarro of Clarin, Misamis Occidental, was killed in Cebu City on October 25, 2019. He was ambushed as he was being transported to the city prosecutor’s office for inquest proceedings on an assault complaint. According to police, masked men stopped the convoy, asked the mayor to get out of the vehicle, and shot him dead. The incident happened a day after Navarro was arrested for allegedly beating up a massage therapist.

23. Los Baños Mayor Caesar Perez – December 2020

Mayor Caesar Perez of Los Baños, Laguna, was shot twice in the head by gunmen inside the municipal hall on December 3, 2020. He was rushed to the hospital, but succumbed to gun wounds.

Prior to his death, Perez was accused by Duterte of having links to the illegal drug trade, but the mayor denied this.

24. Libungan Mayor Christopher Cuan – January 2021

Only 11 days into the new year, the Philippines saw another killing of a local chief executive. Mayor Christopher Cuan of Libungan, North Cotabato, and his driver were shot dead by a gunman while they were inspecting a cockpit under construction in their town on January 11, 2021.

Cuan, who was part of Duterte’s 2016 drug list, survived an assassination attempt two years earlier.

25. Mabuhay Vice Mayor Restituto Calonge – February 2021

Vice Mayor Restituto Calonge, town mayor of Mabuhay in Zamboanga Sibugay, was shot dead by a gunman near the municipal hall on February 26, 2021. One of his companions also died on the scene, while another one was hurt.

26. Calbayog City Mayor Ronaldo Aquino – March 2021

An ambush on March 8, 2021, by gunmen resulted in the death of Mayor Ronald Aquino of Calbayog City in Samar  and two of his bodyguards. They were aboard a van when the incident took place in the city.

27. Al-Barka Mayor Darussalam Lajid – December 2021

Zamboanga City grappled with the killing of Al-Barka, Basilan, Mayor Darussalam Lajid and his aide on December 6, 2021. Their companions, Akbar Mayor Alih Salih and another aide, were also wounded in the attack that took place at a coastal village in the city. The victims had arrived from Basilan that morning when the incident took place.

28. Lopez Jaena Mayor Michael Gutierrez – December 2021

Mayor Michael Gutierrez of Lopez Jaena in Misamis Occidental died on December 27, 2021, five days after he was shot by a sniper during a party in Tangub City on December 22. He was a vice gubernatorial aspirant under the Team Asensa political group in the province.

– with reports from Dwight de Leon/

This list will be updated as needed. 

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.