Cops clash with gunmen in vice mayor’s slay
Police on Wednesday clashed shots with a group of armed men believed to be involved in the killing of the vice mayor of Balaoan town in La Union province, and the wounding of his daughter, the town mayor, an hour after the attack, a police report released on Thursday said.
Policemen chanced upon the suspects’ vehicle at Barangay Nagsaag in nearby San Juan town but they were fired upon as they approached the gunmen.
The gunmen fled but they abandoned their vehicle in San Juan.
The encounter could help the police track down the killers of Vice Mayor Al-Fred Concepcion and his aide, Michael Ulep, according to Chief Insp. Silverio Ordinado Jr., La Union police spokesperson.
Armed men fired at the vehicles ferrying the vice mayor and his daughter, Balaoan Mayor Aleli Concepcion, to the municipal hall at 8:10 a.m. on Wednesday.
8 others wounded
The mayor, five Balaoan employees and three bystanders were wounded in the attack on the Balaoan-Luna Road at Barangay Cabuaan in Balaoan, about 50 meters from the Concepcions’ house.
The police secured the hospitals where the survivors in the attack were treated for bullet wounds. Among them were Mayor Concepcion’s driver, Roniel Valdez, 45, and her security escort, Dominador Bautista, 30.
The mayor was being driven in a Toyota Innova that was traveling ahead of a Hyundai Starex van carrying her father.
The gunmen wounded the vice mayor’s driver, Joey Lopez, 33, and aides, Samuel Natividad, 46, and Roderick Orfiano, 34.
Ulep, who died in the attack, was on a motorcycle and was not in the van as initially reported, police said.
Also wounded were Danilo Mendoza, 50, Roberto Octavo, 58, and Marilou Dingle, 37, who were caught in the crossfire.
Bullet casings from assault rifles were recovered from the crime scenes in Balaoan and San Juan.
Police have not yet determined who ordered the attack on the Concepcions, Ordinado said.
He said investigators were looking into all leads, including the vice mayor’s alleged involvement in the murder of Sudipen Mayor Alexander Buquing on Oct. 1.
A resolution dated Nov. 5 and signed by La Union Prosecutor Danilo Bumacod recommended the filing of charges against the principal suspect in the Buquing murder, Rosendo Sibayan alias “Tukak,” and four unidentified accomplices.
But the resolution also cited a feud with Concepcion, quoting the affidavit of Buquing’s widow, Wendy Joy, who talked about threats faced by her husband.
The resolution cited an incident when Concepcion allegedly barred tricycle drivers of Sudipen from passing through Balaoan, due to the poor showing in Sudipen of his son, Carlo, who won the race for provincial board members in the district in 2016.
It also said that “Vice Mayor Concepcion threatened her [Mrs. Buquing] that her husband will not finish his term as he will be pitting him [against] then Vice Mayor Edwin Belisoa.”
Ordinado said, “We are looking at politics, personal grudges and business angles, because the vice mayor (Concepcion) was also a contractor.”
Concepcion was the third La Union politician to be killed this year, after Buquing and former La Union Rep. Eufranio Eriguel on May 1 in Agoo town.
Because of these incidents, La Union could be placed under the police watch list in the 2019 midterm elections, Director General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine National Police chief, said on Thursday.
He said the violence in La Union revealed the “intense political rivalry in the province.” — WITH REPORTS FROM GABRIEL CARDINOZA, YOLANDA SOTELO AND JEANNETTE ANDRADE
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