Laguna town seen as election hot spot after gun attack | Inquirer News
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Laguna town seen as election hot spot after gun attack

THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) will recommend the inclusion of Calauan town in Laguna province in the list of election hot spots 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 poll 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).

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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 had come 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.

Getaway vehicle

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, a green Toyota Corolla (plate No. PSP 326), which was abandoned in the adjacent city of San Pablo, 11 kilometers from the Calauan town center.

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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.

Many expressed sympathy over the death 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.

Berris ended the 49-year reign of the Sanchez and Brion families in Calauan politics when he beat the wife of detained former Mayor Antonio Sanchez in the mayoral race in 2001. Sanchez is serving seven life terms after he was convicted for the 1991 rape-slay of UPLB student Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of her friend and fellow UPLB student, Allan Gomez.

Berris and his wife, Felisa “Baby” Lim, have been taking turns in serving as mayor of the town for about 15 years now. They have been facing Sanchez’s family members or the former mayor’s relatives from the Brion family in the mayoral elections since 2001, Comelec records showed.

Mayoral candidate Kraft is a relative of Sanchez.

Running for vice mayor are Allan Jun Sanchez, the former mayor’s son; a relative, June Brion; and independent candidate Joseph Larona.

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TAGS: Buenafrido Berris, Comelec, Election hot spot, Elections 2016, gun attack, hot spot, Laguna
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