Calbayog mayor ambushed on his way to son’s birthday party dies in hospital

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines — Mayor Ronaldo Aquino of Calbayog City, Samar province was on the way to the birthday celebration of his son after playing tennis on Monday (March 8) when his sports utility vehicle (SUV) was tailed by a van.

Then shots were fired.

Aquino’s police escorts fired back at the group of unidentified men inside the van.

After a brief exchange of gunfire, Aquino was hit, including in the head, and died upon reaching the hospital.

His two bodyguards, who had yet to be identified, were also killed in the ambush.

Police have yet to determine the motive in the killing of Aquino, 58, who was serving his third and last term as mayor.

Former Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, who also served as mayor of Calbayog City, expressed shock at the killing of Aquino.

“I am very, very, sad. I strongly condemn. Hope justice will be served to his family,” Sarmiento said in a phone interview.

Aquino and Sarmiento are political allies and among the stalwarts of Liberal Party, the dominant political party in Calbayog.

According to a police report, Aquino just finished playing tennis at the Calbayog Sports Complex past 5 p.m. and was on his way to the family-owned resort Villa Marcelina to attend the birthday celebration of his son, Mark.

Still unidentified gunmen aboard a van suddenly appeared and opened fire with what appeared to be automatic weapons at the mayor’s SUV while it was at the village of Lonoy in Calbayog.

Aquino’s security detail managed to return fire but the mayor was hit, along with his two police escorts.

Aquino was brought to the St.Camillus Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

A city councilor, who asked not to be named, said that the council was shocked and saddened by the killing of Mayor Aquino.

“The entire people of Calbayog are now in shock. Hope the police could resolve this soon,” he said.

The city’s incumbent vice mayor, Diego Rivera, was expected to assume as mayor of Calbayog based on rules of succession.

Aquino is the second mayor of Calbayog, a major trading center in Samar province, to get killed in an ambush.

On May 1, 2011, then Mayor Reynaldo Uy was killed by still unknown suspects while he was attending a fiesta celebration in Hinabangan town.

The killing of Uy, who also served as congressman, remained unsolved.

Aquino, who was then vice mayor, took over as mayor.