Cop, companion shot dead in Escalante City
BACOLOD CITY, Philippines—A policeman and a police asset were reportedly killed by six men in front of the public market in Escalante City around 6:35 p.m. Monday, said Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, Negros Occidental police director.
PO1 Bejien Tanguan and Joseph Lutrago who were on board a motorcycle were killed while in front of the public market in Barangay (village) Balintawak, Guara said Monday evening. He added that the suspects were believed to be members of the New People’s Army.
Tanguan was able to fire back, hitting one of the suspects who was brought by his comrades on board a tricycle to a still unknown location, Guara said. Pursuit operations were ongoing.
Tanguan and Lutrago had gone to a gasoline station to fill their motorcycle with fuel but they were gunned down when they drove onto the highway in front of the market.
Guara, however, could not give further details on the shooting.
Lutrago was reportedly a supporter of Escalante mayoral candidate Santiago Barcelona and Negros Occidental Gov. and reelectionist Alfredo Maranon Jr. of the United Negros Alliance. Barcelona and Marañon are running against Escalante Mayor Melecio Yap and Vice Governor Genaro Alvarez Jr. of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, respectively.
Lutrago’s brother Armando Martinez Lutrago, a former member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, was gunned down by unidentified armed men in Barangay Libertad, Escalante City, on Dec. 3, 2003.
The Philippine National Police had earlier listed Escalante City as an election hotspot.
Escalante City falls under Category 1, where employment of private armed groups by candidates and intense political rivalry are likely to occur, Guara said in January.
The police recorded a series of extra-judicial killings in Escalante City from 2007 to 2010, majority of which took place during election periods, and responsibility for many of these killings was claimed by the NPA.
Yap was stripped of his supervisory power over the local police by the Napolcom in 2011, following allegations that he was sympathetic to the NPA and the occurrence of alleged extrajudicial and unsolved killings in Escalante.
The Escalante mayor had denied the allegations.
Yap also stressed that the Monday night killing was not politically motivated and that it was insurgency-related.
Yap said that when the shooting occurred, he was at a rally of the NPC, which ended at 5:30 p.m., in Barangay Old Poblacion, about six kilometers from the crime scene.
Present at the rally were NPC gubernatorial bet Alvarez, his running mate Eugenio Bong Lacson and Rep. Julio Ledesma (Neg. Occ., 1st District).
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