Political foe eyed in mayor’s airport slay
MANILA, Philippines—The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is eyeing three possible and related motives in the killing of Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur Mayor Ukol Talumpa at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 3 last week, and they all involved his political rival, Wilson “Kitty” Nandang, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said on Monday.
While the NBI had already identified Talumpa’s gunman and his companion, De Lima did not disclose their identities because of an ongoing manhunt for them.
De Lima also declined to say whether Nandang, a former mayor of Labangan, was NBI Task Force Talumpa’s suspect in the mayor’s killing.
“I cannot confirm that yet,” she said of the shooting that killed Talumpa, his wife Leah, his nephew Saripuden Talumpa and an 18-month-old baby who were all fatally shot at the NAIA 3 arrival area on Dec.20.
De Lima said Talumpa’s daughter Rayyam had written her last Sunday to seek protection after getting death threats. Talumpa’s daughter had also said there were witnesses who could point to the person behind her parents’ killing, and wanted them covered as well under the Justice Department’s Witness Protection Program.
The justice secretary said she will discuss the younger Talumpa’s request with the NBI.
De Lima said the NBI was looking into three possible and related motives behind the killing: “The intense political rivalry between the mayor and former Mayor Kitty Nandang; the supposed strong advocacy of the slain mayor (against) illegal drugs that he suspected his political rival to be involved in, and the rido or feud between these two rival families.’
The Justice official said she had checked and confirmed that the ex-Labangan mayor was indeed in the watch list of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
“Wilson Nandang is a target listed personality in PDEA’s National Drug Information System and he’s believed to be the leader of the Nandang-Afdal-Malaco Drug Trafficking Group,” De Lima said.
Protection of politicians
In a text message she sent to reporters, De Lima said that information gathered by the NBI showed that the “Afdal-Nandang-Malaco Drug Trafficking Group (were) allegedly involved in drug trafficking activities and that for years, the group had enjoyed the protection of some politicians in Mindanao until some of them also decided to enter politics.”
According to the PDEA, Afdal is Abubakr Afdal, a former Labangan mayor and uncle of Nandang, De Lima said.
She added that Talumpa had been battling illegal drugs in his area and had accused Nandang of being involved in the trade.
De Lima said “it was about time” for authorities “to seriously look into the illegal drugs (situation) in that area.”
In Rayyam Talumpa’s letter to De Lima—which was released to reporters by the justice secretary—she claimed that, according to an eye witness “who stood next to my parents,” the gunman, a man wearing a police uniform, had shot her father “while shouting ‘Mayor, mayor para kay Kitty Nandang ito (This is for Kitty Nandang).”
“I think the fault of my mother and father was their strong advocacy against illegal drugs in the municipality of Labangan,” Rayyam said.
In Bacolod City, the mother of the 18-month-old infant killed by a stray bullet in the Talumpa shooting, had called for justice for her son.
Phille (not Phillip, as earlier reported) Thomas Estoeta died instantly when a stray bullet pierced his head just outside the arrival area of NAIA Terminal 3.
The infant’s mother, Marie Ann Lirazan, grandmother Amalia Lirazan and cousin, 3-year-old Dhianne Philippe Uy, were also hit and wounded during the shooting. They were now in stable condition.
The four had come from Bacolod City for a vacation in Manila and were waiting for their vehicle to pick them up when the shooting started. Lirazan fractured the bones in her left hand while her mother was hit by a bullet in the back. Dhianne was hit in the head.
Lirazan said she hoped the government would provide them burial and medical assistance, as the surgery for both Amalia and Dhianne could cost them P200,000 to P300,000.
Danny Uy, Dhianne’s father, said his daughter needed the surgery to remove debris from her skull and that he would seek help from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) through Bacolod City Rep. Evelio Leonardia.
They were also hoping they could get some help from NAIA to defray the medical bills, Uy said.
Lirazan said they were waiting for her brother, PO2 Felipe Lirazan of the Navy, whose vehicle had been stuck in traffic when the shooting occurred.
She recalled that they ran to hide behind a big post but that the gunmen kept firing.
Her brother, who had been on his cell phone talking to her when the gunfire started, left his car in the middle of the road and jumped a barrier to get to them, Lirazan said.
Leonardia said PCSO General Manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas and Assistant General Manager Liza Gabuyo have assured him of assistance for the Lirazans and Uy.
In his letter to Rojas, Leonardia said that since the incident happened in a public facility, “we have, at the very least, the moral obligation to help these victims.”
The congressman said he would also bring the matter to the attention of Catanduanes Rep. Caesar Sarmiento, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, because he believed that the security protocol in the country’s airports should be reviewed. With a report by Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas
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