Police are eyeing politics as the primary motive in the murder of Mayor Erlinda Mora-Domingo of Maconacon, Isabela on Tuesday.
Domingo, who turned 51 on Jan. 19, was shot and killed by gunmen shortly before 8 p.m. on Tuesday outside the Park Ville Apartelle at the corner of Examiner Street and Quezon Avenue in Quezon City. Her driver, Bernard Plasos, was also shot and wounded.
Police held two men and a woman for questioning on the attack. They were identified as Christian Pajenado, Michael Domingo and Mary Grace Abduhadi, who were apprehended in separate operations. Abduhadi, arrested in the Salaam Compound in Barangay Culiat, is said to be the wife of the prime suspect, a certain Marsibal Abduhadi, alias Bagwis,” who is still at large.
The suspects reportedly arrived at the apartelle on two motorcycles. After shooting the mayor and the driver, one reportedly ran to a nearby construction site where he was held by the workers and later taken by the police.
Quezon City Police District director Senior Supt. Richard Albano said his men are still investigating the motive behind the attack on the mayor, who died of a single gunshot wound to the head.
“This was likely planned. Possibly, it is related to politics although we are exploring other motives,” he said yesterday.
Senior Supt. Franklin Moises Mabanag, Isabela police director, had similar hunches. “Her opponent was a converted Muslim and one of those arrested was a Maranao, so the strongest lead is politics,” he told the Inquirer. He is coordinating with the Quezon City police in the investigation.
Mabanag said the mayor had received politics-related threats to her life in the past.
Many people in Cauayan, however, have reservations about the initial police theory.
Before entering politics, Domingo managed a business that shipped lobsters and crabs to Manila.
Violence, however, was the reason she became mayor. Domingo assumed Maconacon’s mayoral post in June 2009 when Mayor Francisco Talosig was shot by gunmen in Tuguegarao City. Talosig, a former forester, died four months later in a Cagayan hospital.
Then Vice Mayor Domingo served Talosig’s remaining term. In 2010, she ran and won against the late mayor’s son, Dr. Royle Talosig, and Walter Villanueva.
Domingo, who will now be succeeded by Vice Mayor Jolly Taberner, was seeking reelection in the midterm elections.
She had shunned security escorts when visiting the villages in Maconacon, except for her driver, according to town civil registrar Maria Theresa Oriarte.
“She did not want to have armed escorts. It was not her style,” Oriarte said.
Maconacon Councilor Valentino Liberato said Domingo’s political allies had encouraged her to petition for two bodyguards for the election campaign. But she declined, saying she had no enemies, according to Liberato.
Maconacon (pop: 3,991, according to a 2007 census) is one of three coastal towns of Isabela that are separated from the mainland by the Sierra Madre range. The three towns are often isolated whenever typhoons hit the province.
When the town was devastated by Typhoon “Juan” in October 2010, Domingo supervised the relief operations.
In previous interviews, Domingo complained about the absence of a coastal road linking them to mainland Isabela as the town has been accessible only by light plane from Cauayan City or Tuguegarao City or by boat that sails to and from Santa Ana town in Cagayan.