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Comelec eyes Calauan, Laguna as poll hotspot after attack on mayor

Mayor Berris is still recovering from his wounds; UPLB mourns cum laude grad who died in attack

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) office here will recommend the inclusion of Calauan town in Laguna province on the list of election hotspots following the attack on its mayor, Buenafrido Berris, and his three companions on Sunday.

Berris, who is running for reelection, was wounded but two of his three companions—cousin Leonardo Taningco, who served as his driver, and Emmanuel Peña, who was running for councilor—were killed by a lone gunman in Barangay Imok.

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The mayor’s secretary was unhurt.

The ambush came as a “shocking” opening salvo for the election race in Calauan, which never recorded an election-related violent incident in recent years, said Romeo Fortes, Comelec director in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon).

Police officials have ordered tighter security checks in the second-class municipality (annual income: P45 million-P55 million). Investigators were considering other motives outside of politics.

Chief Insp. Luis Perez, Calauan police director, said Berris came from a meeting at the Imok barangay hall and had just boarded his service vehicle, a Hyundai Starex van, when the gunman attacked his group.

“They were about to close the van’s door when the [gunman] … fired [at them],” he said.

Peña fell off the van while the wounded Taningco managed to drive the vehicle for a few meters before it stopped. Peña and Taningco died at the scene.

Berris was hit in the chest and abdomen and was taken to the hospital. A member of his staff described his condition as “OK” in a text message on Monday but said he was not yet ready to be interviewed.

On Sunday, police found the supposed getaway vehicle of the gunman, a green Toyota Corolla (PSP 326), which was abandoned in the adjacent city of San Pablo, 11 kilometers from the Calauan town center.

In 2013, Berris ran and won under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), but he is seeking reelection this year as an independent candidate. He will face Kingsly Kraft of the Nacionalista Party in the mayoral race.

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Many expressed sympathy for the family of Peña, 25, a cum laude graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). A former Sangguniang Kabataan chair in his hometown of Calauan, he earned his development communication degree from UPLB and worked as a public school teacher before he ran for councilor.

“We deeply mourn the loss of Emman, a young public servant who genuinely wanted to serve his hometown. We call for constant vigilance from all Filipinos, to ensure that the coming elections will be honest and peaceful,” read a statement from Peña’s professors at the College of Development Communication in UPLB.  SFM

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TAGS: 2016 elections, attempted homicide, attempted murder, Buenafrido Berris, Calauan, Calauan Municipal Police, Chief Insp. Luis Perez, Comelec, Comelec Calabarzon, Commission on Elections, Crime, crime victims, Election, election hotspots, Emmanuel Pena, Homicide, Justice, Laguna, Laguna Provincial Police, law, law enforcement, Leonardo Taningco, Local authorities, local elections, Local Governments, Local officials, Luis Perez, mayor, Murder, murder attempt, news, Regions, Romeo Fortes, Security, Shooting, University of the Philippines, UP Los Baños
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