Husband of Iloilo town mayor, driver killed, 1 hurt in ambush

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ILOILO CITY, Philippines — Two persons including the husband of a town mayor were killed and another was wounded in an ambush by heavily armed men in Lemery town, Iloilo province, Monday morning.

John Apura, 45, husband of Mayor Ligaya Apura, was pronounced dead at the Sara District Hospital where the victims were taken, Inspector Asension Ortizo, Lemery police chief, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The other fatality was identified as Apura’s driver Rodel Lope and the wounded as their companion Joselito Calvez. The victims had multiple bullet wounds.

Ortizo said the assailants opened fire at the victims who were on a Nissan Patrol vehicle around 8:30 a.m. at Barangay (village) Anabo in Lemery, about 69 kilometers northeast of Iloilo City.

Three to five persons were believed to be involved in the ambush, said Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz Jr., Western Visayas police director.

Police have arrested one of the suspected assailants with an M-14 rifle in a sugarcane field a few hours after the attack.

The suspect, identified as Mario Cobarubias, is a resident of Dumarao town in Capiz and is wanted for a separate murder charge, according to Cruz.

Cobarubias has been detained at the provincial police headquarters in Camp Francisco Sumagaysay Sr. in Sta Barbara town in Iloilo.

The policemen cornered Cobarubias in a sugarcane field more than a kilometer from the ambush site.

Also recovered from the suspect were four M-14 ammunition magazines, two hand grenades and 85 rounds of ammunition.

Apura’s widow is seeking justice for her husband.

“The people of Lemery, and not only my family, are crying for justice,” she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview.

The mayor is seeking re-election under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). She is being challenged by Lowel Arban of the ruling Liberal Party and independent candidate Vicente Inion.

Investigators are eyeing land dispute as a probable motive of the attack. Apura was also engaged in various businesses, according to Ortizo.

While politics is among the probable motives of the killing, Cruz noted that Apura was not a candidate.

“We will conduct and impartial investigation and pursue all possible angles,” Cruz said.

But Mayor Apura said politics was behind the ambush.

“I may be the candidate but my husband was my main campaigner. He had no enemies,” she said.

The mayor is not backing out from the election despite her husband’s death.

“This has only strengthened me and I know my town mates are intelligent to know the truth, ” she said.

Lemuel Fernandez, UNA campaign manager in Iloilo, said Mayor Apura had sought help from party officials two days ago because of security concerns.

“She was afraid for the safety of her family from goons,” Fernandez told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Lemery is among the 40 areas in Western Visayas under the election watchlist of the Commission on Election and the Philippine National Police.

Cruz said the Lemery police force have earlier been augmented after the town was placed under the watchlist. He said security would be provided to  the survivor of the attack.

Originally posted at 09:58 am | Monday, May 6, 2013

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