Slain Ecija mayor, contractor tagged bitter rivals for projects
CABANATUAN CITY—General Tinio Mayor Ferdinand Bote and the contractor who allegedly ordered his assassination had been fighting over government projects for months before the 57-year-old mayor was murdered on July 3, according to sources from the local construction industry.
This rivalry between Bote and Christian Saquilabon became so serious that Saquilabon’s company, Forthright Construction, was almost barred from doing business in General Tinio, said a source, who was familiar with these projects.
But Bote’s widow, Mayvelyn, said Saquilabon was a family friend and she could not believe insinuations that the contractor was being harassed by her husband over building contracts.
She also said she believed Saquilabon could not have planned the murder alone.
“I hope they reveal the truth about who helped, who is behind Christian Saquilabon,” Mayvelyn told the Inquirer on Tuesday.
In a news conference on Monday, Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde said Saquilabon, who is in his late 30s, allegedly ordered the hit on Bote over the P100-million Minalungao ecotourism convergence zone project.
The project will improve Minalungao National Park in General Tinio, a protected area that boasts of a river as well as hidden caves and high limestone walls.
Some of the caves lead to the historic Biak-na-Bato at San Miguel town in Bulacan province.
Saquilabon won the contract when it was bid out in January by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Forthright Construction initially placed a P98-million bid but had to reduce this to P75 million to land the contract after a competing firm owned by Bote’s family almost outbid him, the source said.
Bote and Saquilabon also fought over a multimillion-peso contract for the construction of an irrigation canal that Saquilabon won.
It was rebid after Bote reportedly asked the Commission on Audit to review the contract due to what he said was “anomalous bidding.”
On the day he was attacked, Bote went to this city to visit the DPWH engineering district office and the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems office at the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) compound.
Neither the DPWH nor the NIA had released information about Bote’s transactions in their offices.
Gunmen fired at Bote’s vehicle as it left the NIA compound.
Bote’s widow said she did not know of any occasion when Bote and Saquilabon had an argument.
“I am sad because my husband was killed. I am also saddened for the young man (Saquilabon). He wasted his life,” Mayvelyn said. —WITH A REPORT FROM ANSELMO ROQUE
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