The opposition Liberal Party (LP) has warned that the series of killings of local officials could be orchestrated to create an “atmosphere of lawlessness” that would give the Duterte administration grounds for the imposition of martial law.
Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan City, Batangas province, who had been linked by President Rodrigo Duterte to illegal drugs, was shot dead by a sniper during flag-raising rites in front of City Hall on Monday.
On Tuesday afternoon, motorcycle-riding gunmen killed Mayor Ferdinand Bote of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija province.
On Saturday afternoon, gunmen in a black pickup fired on a vehicle carrying Vice Mayor Alexander Lubigan of Trece Martires City, Cavite province, killing him outright.
Bote and Lubigan had no known links to drugs. Police said no clear motive for the attack on Bote had emerged yet but they were looking at politics in the killing of Lubigan.
Atmosphere of lawlessness
“What is going on? Are these deliberate and orchestrated attempts at creating an atmosphere of lawlessness to justify strongman rule?” Sen. Francis Pangilinan, LP president, said in a statement on Saturday.
“Another local executive in Luzon and two more in Mindanao were killed today even before authorities can provide the lead to the killing of two mayors earlier this week. The warehouse of suspected drug lord Peter Lim in Cebu was bombed on Thursday,” Pangilinan said.
The senator was referring to the killing in separate attacks on Saturday of Michael Magallanes, 38, a newly elected village councilor in Zamboanga City, and Nassif Palawan Bansil, 31, a municipal councilor of Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur province.
The LP leader said the Philippine National Police must take immediate action to solve the high-profile killings.
“A swift, sure and lawful move by the PNP to bring the killers behind bars is what the public awaits. At the same time, the police must ensure visibility, especially in key critical areas to prevent another bloody incident,” he said.
“What we want is a safe, secure and peaceful society, not a gangster land,” he added.
Sen. Bam Aquino said the assassination of Lubigan showed the extent to which violence had become the norm.
“For violence to stop, the government must stop using force. If they keep using violence as the solution to the country’s problems, our society will not be peaceful and safe,” Aquino said.
Nothing to worry about
But PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde said the people should not be worried over the killings of local officials.
“We should not have any worries. We should not be afraid,” Albayalde told reporters in Albay province on Saturday when asked about the killings of Halili, Bote and Lubigan.
“These [killings] are not systematic. There is no pattern. We do not know if this involves politics. There are a lot of possible reasons,” he added.
The PNP chief said a thorough investigation of the killings was going on.
“We know that here in our country, every election season, although it is puzzling, before, during and after the election, there are elected officials who die,” he said.
Police said Lubigan had “no known enemy” and that they had ruled out illegal drugs.
Investigators said they were looking at politics behind the attack on Lubigan, as the vice mayor told people close to him on Friday that he intended to run for mayor in next year’s midterm elections.
“Initially, what we are looking at is politics,” said Chief Supt. Edward Carranza, director of the Calabarzon police.
Asked for details, Carranza said Lubigan was serving his last term and that investigators had received information that the vice mayor told people close to him on Friday that he would run for mayor in 2019.
In 2016, Lubigan ran as a candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance. Mayor Melandres de Sagun, who is also serving his last term, belongs to the same political party.
De Sagun is on leave.
“Trece Martires has this [record] of intense political rivalry,” Carranza said, but he declined to name any politician who might be involved in the attack on Lubigan.
In recent elections, however candidates from local political clans have been running unopposed.
Cavite Gov. Juanito Crispin Remulla said the last election-related violence recorded in the province was about 11 years ago, but added that he, too, would describe as “hot” the political climate in the provincial capital. —WITH REPORTS FROM MICHAEL JAUCIAN AND MARICAR CINCO
By: DJ Yap – Reporter / @deejayapINQ / Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:25 AM July 09, 2018
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