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Another mayor killed in ambush

Ferdinand Bote's car

Gen. Tinio Mayor Ferdinand Bote was riding in this vehicle when it was attacked by motorcycle-riding men in Cabanatuan City on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by ARMAND GALANG / Inquirer Central Luzon)

Another mayor was killed in an ambush in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija province, on Tuesday afternoon, a day after Mayor Antonio Halili was fatally shot by a sniper outside the Tanauan City Hall in Batangas province.

Mayor Ferdinand Bote, 57, of General Tinio town in Nueva Ecija, died from at least five bullet wounds at MV Gallego Hospital just across from the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) compound in Cabanatuan.

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Bote had just left the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System office at the NIA compound in Cabanatuan around 4:30 p.m. when two men on a motorcycle drove up near his sport utility vehicle and opened fire.

Malacañang vowed full government effort to solve the killing and bring the perpetrators to justice.

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“We assure everyone that we would discharge the state obligation for every murder. We will spare no effort in getting to the bottom of this latest violent crime,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Mayors’ fears

Monday’s killing in broad daylight of Mayor Halili has sent chills down the spine of some local executives in southern Luzon who have also figured on the Philippine National Police’s “narcolist.”

“You cannot take that (worrying) away from us. We, the mayors, are of the same level and I guess it’s just but natural for us to worry [for our security],” Mayor Raul Palino of Teresa, Rizal province, told the Inquirer by phone.

Apart from his safety, Palino has to worry about government intelligence agents going around Teresa to inquire about his alleged illegal activities, including being a drug trade protector, though no case has been filed against him.

The wife of Mayor Bruno Ramos of Bay, Laguna province, also expressed apprehension over her husband’s safety after Halili was shot, possibly by a sniper, in front of shocked employees during a flag-raising ceremony outside City Hall.

“I’ve been telling [him] not to stay late outside and if possible, just bring home his work, like documents he needs to sign,” Julieta Ramos said.

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Unperturbed

Mayor Cecilio Hernandez of Rodriguez, Rizal, however, is unperturbed.

“Why should I be scared when I know I’m not doing anything wrong?” he said.

In October 2017, the National Police Commission (Napolcom) tagged Halili, Palino and Hernandez, as well as Mayors Eulalio Alilio of Lemery, Batangas, and Loreto Amante of San Pablo City, Laguna, as “narcopoliticians.”

It later added Mayors Ramos, Roderick Alcala of Lucena City, Quezon province; Juan Toreja of Ibaan, Batangas; and Caesar Perez of Los Baños, Laguna, to the list.

The officials have denied any role in the drug trade, but the Napolcom stripped them of their power and control over their local police force.

Napolcom review

Halili was the fourth mayor to be killed in Mr. Duterte’s bloody drug war after Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao province; Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte province; and Reynaldo Parojinog Sr. of Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental province.

Napolcom was reviewing Halili’s petition to clear his name of allegations he was a drug protector at the time of the killing. The petition was submitted to the Office of the President through the Napolcom central office.

“And then this attack happened,” Ronald Banzuela, Napolcom head in Batangas, said by phone.

Halili, 72, was upbeat two weeks ago that the Napolcom would reinstate his supervisory powers over the police, Tanauan information officer Gerard Laresma said.

As they coped with the killing, Halili’s family bristled at President Duterte’s statement that the murder might be connected to the illegal drug trade in the city south of Manila.

“My father would rather die than be a drug lord,” the late mayor’s daughter, Angeline, told reporters.

But Roque said Mr. Duterte only raised a suspicion that the attack on the mayor was related to the city executive’s alleged involvement in drugs.

“And the government has promised to conduct a wide investigation to find out who was really behind the killing of Mayor Halili,” he said.

3 ‘persons of interest’

Police were eyeing at least three “persons of interest” in the attack.

Two of them had to do with the issue of drugs, said Supt. Chitadel Gaoiran, spokesperson for the regional police.

“Drug-related could either mean people that must have been angered by his (Halili’s) shame campaign or his (Halili’s) alleged illegal drugs involvement,” Gaoiran said.

Investigators earlier indicated that Halili’s controversial order for alleged drug peddlers and petty criminals to be paraded on the streets of Tanauan was being looked at as one of the possible motives.

Autopsy results showed that a 5.56 mm bullet was used in shooting Halili. This type of ammunition is used on the M-16 rifle, police said. —With reports from Julie M. Aurelio and Christine O. Avendaño

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TAGS: Ferdinand Bote, General Tinio mayor, slain mayor
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