Masbate bet’s killing blunts peace bidBy Jonas Cabiles Soltes
Inquirer Southern Luzon
NAGA CITY—A vice mayoral candidate of Mobo town in Masbate died early Sunday after he was repeatedly shot by two men, shattering hopes of peace advocates in a province notorious for its election-related bloodshed.
Isagani Lupango, 41, barangay chair of Tugbo and president of the town’s Liga ng mga Barangay, succumbed to four bullet wounds at Masbate Doctors Hospital at around 1 a.m., Senior Supt. Heriberto Olitoquit, Masbate police provincial director, said in a phone interview Sunday.
A member of the municipal council, Lupango was running with the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the party of reelectionist Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete.
The Masbate Advocates for Peace (MAP), a Church-led people’s organization that seeks to end political violence in the province, in a statement sent to the Inquirer, “strongly” condemned the killing and called for an “impartial and thorough” investigation.
“The MAP appeals for calm, sobriety, prayers and continued vigilance amid the situation. God will see us through,” said Igmedio Emilio Camposano, MAP president.
The killing took place just a week after thousands of residents took to the streets of Masbate City, the provincial capital, to call for peaceful and orderly elections. Masbate has long been in the police list of election hot spots due to its history of violence during elections.
A peace covenant asking local politicians and candidates to shun guns, goons and gold was also signed last week.
Olitoquit said the death of Lupango brought to three the number of NPC candidates killed in four months, although he was not sure if it was a pattern or just a coincidence. “But the fact that all are NPC bets are noticeable,” he said.
In December last year, Edwin Amaro and Vicente Aragona, candidates for councilors of Aroroy and Balud towns, were also gunned down. Both were fielded by the NPC.
Lupango was attacked by two men with .45 cal. pistols at about 5 p.m. on Saturday in front of Masbate Sports Complex, a cockpit in Barangay Tugbo, while he was boarding his vehicle, Olitoquit said. The cockpit is 2.5 kilometers from the town proper.
The killers fled toward a hilly portion of the town, police said.
Olitoquit said police held two suspects on Sunday, one of whom was identified by the dying Lupango. The official, however, said he could not release their names pending further investigation.
Governor Lanete called on the Commission on Elections to “zero in” on the perpetrators of the killings, saying all those who have been killed were her supporters.
“The perpetrators of violence in Masbate do not want peace,” she said in a text message to the Inquirer.
In a statement, the Special Task Force Masbate said “efforts are now being exerted to determine the motive behind the incident, identify the perpetrators, arrest and file appropriate charges against them.” The task force is composed of police and military personnel tasked with going after loose firearms and private armies.