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2 gunmen kill vice mayoral bet in Masbate town

NAGA CITY—A vice mayoral candidate of Mobo town in Masbate died early on Sunday hours after he was repeatedly shot by two gunmen, shattering hopes of peace advocates here for a violent-free elections in a province notorious for its election-related bloodshed.

Isagani Lupango, 41, the incumbent barangay (village) captain of Tugbo and who sat as council member of Mobo as president of the town’s Liga ng mga Barangay, died at the Masbate Doctors Hospital around 1 a.m. Sunday after succumbing to four gunshot wounds, said Senior Superintendent Heriberto Olitoquit, provincial director of the PNP in Masbate, in a phone interview Sunday.

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Lupango was running under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the party of reelectionist Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete.

The Masbate Advocates for Peace (MAP), a Church-led people’s organization that seeks to end political violence in the province, in a statement sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer “strongly” condemned the killing as it called for “impartial and thorough” investigation into the incident.

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“MAP appeals for calm, sobriety, prayers and continued vigilance amid the situation. God will see us through,” said Igmedio Emilio Camposano, MAP president.

The killing took place just a week after thousands of Masbate folk took to the streets of Masbate City, the provincial capital, to call for peaceful and orderly elections in the province already in the police list of election hotspots due to its history of election-related killings.

A peace covenant asking local politicians and candidates to shun guns, goons, and gold was also signed last week.

Lupango was attacked by two men armed with caliber .45 pistols at about 5 p.m. on Saturday in front of the Masbate Sports Complex, a cockpit in Barangay Tugbo, while he was boarding his vehicle, Olitoquit said.

The cockpit was about 2.5 kilometers from the town proper of Mobo and 3.5 km from Masbate City, which borders Mobo.

The attackers fled right after the incident towards the hilly portion of the town, Olitoquit said.

Two suspects were rounded up Sunday, one of whom was identified by the dying Lupango, Olitoquit said.

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Olitoquit however said he could not release the names of the suspects pending further investigation.

Olitoquit said the killing of Lupango brought to three the number of NPC candidates killed in a span of four months, although he was not sure if it was a pattern or just a coincidence.

“But the fact that all are NPC bets are noticeable,” said Olitoquit.

Last December, Edwin Amaro and Vicente Aragona, candidates for councilors of Aroroy and Balud towns, respectively, were also gunned down. Both were running under the NPC.

Seachon-Lanete on Sunday called on the Commission on Elections to “zero in” on the perpetrators of the killings, saying that all those who have been killed were her supporters.

“The perpetrators of violence in Masbate do not want peace,” Seachon-Lanete said in a text message sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer through Jose Tamayo Jr., her provincial administrator.

The Special Task Force Masbate (STF Masbate), composed of joint police and military operatives tasked to account loose firearms and dismantle partisan armed groups in the province, in a statement said the incident was under investigation by the PNP in Masbate.

“Efforts are now being exerted to determine the motive behind the incident, identify the perpetrators, arrest and file appropriate charges against them,” said Inspector Dexter Panganiban, spokesperson of STF Masbate.

There are at least 2,000 police officers deployed in Masbate, including personnel from the provincial office and augmentation force through the STF Masbate.

Olitoquit did not see the incident as them being outwitted by armed groups.

“We have been doing everything to secure Masbate this election period but those who wanted to kill Lupango had a motive. When there is motive, [the perpetrators] will always look for opportunity. There is no such thing as absolute security,” Olitoquit said.

He said Lupango was killed in his own barangay, which showed the perpetrators were really bent on gunning him down.

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TAGS: Elections, environmental crime, Isagani Lupango, Masbate
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