QC officials clash over motive in killing of village chair
As authorities continued to investigate the killing of a barangay chair who was running for a congressional seat in Quezon City, two of the leading candidates for the mayoralty clashed over the possible motive for her murder.
In a special council meeting on Thursday, Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte discounted speculations that Criselle “Beng” Beltran was killed over politics.
“This may be election-related, meaning it happened during the election period. But election-related is not the same as politically motivated,” Belmonte said.
Don’t jump to conclusions
“Politicians or not, we are not in any position to make any conclusion or any kind of suggestion or insinuation until such time that this is backed up by evidence,” she added.
“It’s not a good look. The police investigation must come first, and such must be the basis of any conclusion in this case,” Belmonte, who is gunning for the city’s top post, told reporters.
Beltran, the incumbent chair of Barangay Bagong Silangan, was running for representative of the city’s second district under PDP-Laban.
She was on the ticket of Rep. Vincent Crisologo, who is running for mayor against Belmonte in the May elections.
Beltran and her driver, Melchor Salita, were killed on Wednesday morning after four unidentified assailants on two motorcycles fired on their sport utility vehicle on J.P. Rizal Street at Barangay Bagong Silangan.
Beltran and Salita were declared dead on arrival in separate hospitals while four of their companions were wounded.
Shortly after the ambush, Belmonte offered a bounty of P5 million for any information leading to the capture of the barangay chair’s killers.
The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) released on Thursday a composite sketch of one of the alleged gunmen.
Witness describes suspect
The sketch was based on the description given by a witness who saw the gunman’s face after the latter removed his mask momentarily to reload his gun, said QCPD director, Chief Supt. Joselito Esquivel.
The suspect was described as being in his 40s, with black hair and of medium height and build.
In a press briefing, Esquivel warned the gunman: “Better surrender to me within 24 hours. If not, we will see what happens.”
He added that investigators were currently eyeing six suspects based on security footage and testimonies from witnesses.
Although only four men fired shots, two others were spotted acting as lookouts, Esquivel said.
According to him, Beltran’s killing might be the first recorded election-related violence (ERV) in the city in years.
“In Quezon City, hits on high-profile candidates at the congressional or even barangay chair levels are rare,” Esquivel explained, adding that the city had zero incidences of ERVs in the last two elections.
Another police official, on the other hand, seemed lukewarm to the idea that the killing might be politically motivated.
“It’s easy to say this was about politics because she was a candidate, but we have yet to see evidence that will prove that,” said Chief Insp. Elmer Monsalve, QCPD investigation chief.
While investigators have not totally discounted the political angle, Esquivel said they were eyeing at least two other motives.
This included, among others, conflicts in business interests and a suspected affair with an unidentified policeman, he added.
Diversion from real issue
Crisologo, however, said that the other motives being floated by the police and city hall were “meant to divert from the real issue.”
“This is politically motivated no matter how you look at it,” he claimed, adding, “The reward is just a cover-up to shift suspicion from them. It’s hypocrisy. Politically, who benefits from this?”
He said that before Beltran’s death, she had received a text from an anonymous sender who urged her to drop out of the congressional race.
However, he refused to show a screenshot of the alleged message.