DAGUPAN CITY—Mayor Ruperto Martinez of Infanta town was shot dead by two motorcycle-riding gunmen at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, hours after a rally that was mounted by residents who are objecting to a local infrastructure project.
Senior Superintendent Mariano Luis Verzosa, Pangasinan police director, said Martinez was shot in the head and neck by his assassins in front of his house at Barangay Cato in Infanta.
His attackers fled toward nearby Dansol town, witnesses said.
The murder took place about five hours after a rally by some 500 residents, who objected to a proposed expansion of a pier in the town.
The residents said the mayor allowed the project to proceed, not heeding their fears that it would be used to haul nickel from Zambales.
Police could not immediately provide details on the killing of Martinez but Pangasinan is one of several provinces tagged by the Department of Interior and Local Government as an election area of concern.
Election hot spots are usually placed under the control of the Commission on Elections, which gives the poll body full supervision and control of the local police for the duration of the election period.
Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas has cited intense political rivalries in Pangasinan as among the reasons that the province was tagged as a hot spot along with Cavite and Batangas.
Elections in the local level are often the most violent in the country’s history. Candidates for mayors and other local government positions are often targets of assassinations and harassment.
Martinez was an ally of Governor Amado Espino Jr., who was accused of controlling “jueteng” operations in the province and who is now facing plunder charges filed by Mayor Rodrigo Orduña of Bugallon town.
Martinez was serving his last term as Infanta mayor. He intended to run for vice mayor under the Nationalist People’s Coalition in next year’s elections. Gabriel Cardinoza and Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon