Cops look into politics, business dealings of slain Ecija mayor
Police investigators are looking into politics and the business dealings of the slain municipal mayor of General Tinio in Nueva Ecija province after ruling out his involvement in illegal drugs.
Mayor Ferdinand Bote, 57, was killed by two gunmen riding on a motorcycle on Tuesday afternoon as he left the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) compound on board his sport utility vehicle in Cabanatuan City.
Chief Supt. Amador Corpus, Central Luzon police director, on Wednesday said the investigators had not “encountered” any information linking Bote to illegal drugs.
They are focusing instead on “the quarry issues in General Tinio and parts of Nueva Ecija, the family’s business contracts and ventures, and politics in General Tinio and in Nueva Ecija,” Corpus said at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
He did not go into details, but provincial officials disclosed some information that might help shed light on the attack against the mayor.
Bote was the third engineer and building contractor to die violently in the province in less than two weeks, according to Gian Carlo Bumanlag, provincial board secretary.
Manuel Lacsamana, 51, was gunned down by motorcycle-riding men along the national highway in Cabanatuan on the night of June 23.
He had landed several government housing contracts and was operating 18 gasoline stations in Nueva Ecija.
He had been granted a permit to operate a quarry along the Pampanga River, and haul and stockpile quarry materials in his compound at Barangay Bitas in the city.
Barely 24 hours after the killing, another engineer, Manuel Farin, 64, was shot dead at his home in Sto. Domingo town, also in Nueva Ecija.
The attacks came on the heels of a House of Representatives inquiry into quarry operation irregularities initiated by Nueva Ecija Representatives Rossana Vergara, Micaela Violago and Magnolia Antonino, and Negros Oriental Rep. Antonio Teves.
The provincial board is set to tackle the killings of Bote and the two other engineers in its next session, according to Bumanlag.
Bote’s vehicle had just exited the NIA compound when gunmen attacked. He had earlier been to the Department of Public Works and Highways office “to follow up on projects,” Corpus said, quoting the mayor’s driver who escaped unhurt.
Investigators were now checking “what these transactions were about,” he said.
Bote, who was serving his first term as mayor, handled “contests on chairmanship” in the May 14 barangay elections, according to Corpus.
But so far, police have not received any report that he was facing death threats or had involvement in illegal drugs, he said.
His death came a day after Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili was assassinated outside City Hall during Monday morning’s flag-raising ceremony.
Director General Aaron Aquino, chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, confirmed that Halili was involved in a drug group. Halili’s family has repeatedly denied the mayor’s alleged links to drugs.
Eduardo Año, officer in charge of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, said the killings of the two mayors were not related.
Chief Supt. Edward Carranza, Calabarzon police director, said investigators were looking at three “persons of interest” in the “well-planned” murder of Halili—two related to drugs and one related to politics.
Carranza declined to give other details. He refused to use the term “sniper” to describe the assailant, saying this had police and military connotations.
Instead, he used the term “marksman.”
“At a distance of 160 meters, anybody proficient enough in long firearms can hit a target. Snipers [according to the military] would refer to [someone shooting from] a distance of 500 meters and beyond,” he said at Camp Crame.