Local officials in the Philippines have expressed fear for their safety following a string of murders targetting local public officials.
On Wednesday afternoon, Al Rashid Mohammad Ali, a vice mayor in a town in the southernmost province of Tawi-Tawi, was killed by gunmen while he was visiting the city of Zamboanga. He was the second vice mayor killed in less than one week. Two mayors were also killed earlier this month.
On July 2, Antonio Halili, a mayor in the suburb of Manila, was assassinated by an alleged sniper while taking part in flag-raising rites in front of the city hall, shocking city employees and local village leaders who were present at the ceremony.
Mayor Halili, who was known for his tough stance on crime by forcing arrested criminals to take part in controversial “walk of shame” parades around his city, was also listed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s “narco-list” of politicians allegedly involved in the drug trade.
Coincidentally his assassination came days after Duterte, in a speech, suggested that vice mayors have their mayors killed to “advance their political careers”.
A day after Halili’s assassination, Ferdinand Bote, a town mayor from one of the towns in the northern Nueva Ecija province, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen as he rode his car.
Other local officials have been targeted in the same week. On July 7, a newly elected village captain in Zamboanga City, Michael Magallanes, was killed by an unidentified assailant. On the same day, Alexander Lubigan, a vice mayor in a Manila suburb was also killed.
In a radio interview the following day, Socorro town Mayor Marife Brondial, who heads the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, said all mayors are terrible worried for their safety.
“From what is happening now, we can see that the killers have no fear, no fear of God or respect for human life, so it’s really scary to be a public official,” Brondial said.
Ten municipal mayors have been killed in the country by either police or unknown assailants since Duterte took office two years ago.
Human rights advocates and opposition politicians have accused Duterte of abetting a culture of violence and impunity with his war on drugs, which has left thousands of people dead.