Assassination of second Philippine town mayor caught on camera

Mayor Ferdinand Bote from northern province was assassinated in an ambush one day after killing of another mayor.

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Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes blamed the killings on a 'culture of violence' under President Duterte [Reuters]

A second town mayor in the Philippines was shot and killed by an unidentified man in a road attack, one day after the mayor of another city was gunned down in a daylight sniper attack.

Tuesday’s killing prompted an opposition senator to call the country the “murder capital of Asia”. 

Mayor Ferdinand Bote of the General Tinio town was leaving a government compound in a sports utility vehicle in the northern Nueva Ecija province when a man on a motorcycle shot him repeatedly with a pistol. The gunman escaped, police said.

Similar to the assassination of a Philippine city mayor on Monday, the attack on Tuesday was captured on closed-circuit television monitors.

On Monday, Mayor Antonio Halili was shot dead while singing the national anthem among hundreds of employees in a flag-raising ceremony in his city of Tanauan, south of the capital Manila.

Videos filmed by witnesses of the moment when what looked like a single rifle shot felled the 72-year-old mayor and sparked chaos have gone viral online and sparked new alarm.

Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV blamed the killings on a “culture of violence” under President Rodrigo Duterte, whom he has criticised for a brutal anti-drug crackdown that has left thousands of mostly poor suspects dead in the last two years.

The Roman Catholic Church also raised the alarm over the killings of three priests in recent months, including one who was shot at an altar while preparing to celebrate Mass in a northern village last month. At least four suspects are currently in police custody.

‘No one is safe now’

“No one is safe now,” Senator Trillanes said in a statement.

“For someone who promised to restore peace and order in our country during the campaign, it is ironic for a lot of people that Duterte has actually turned the Philippines into the murder capital of Asia.”

When he rose to power in 2016, the brash-talking Duterte expanded nationwide a deadly campaign against illegal drugs that he enforced as a longtime mayor of the southern city of Davao.

Police said the current campaign has left more than 4,200 suspects dead in what they claimed were clashes with law enforcement, although human rights groups have blamed them for extrajudicial killings.

But Senator Trillanes said in February that as many as 20,000 people have already been killed in the drug war.  

Duterte and the police have denied a policy of condoning illegal killings and cite the deaths of many policemen in clashes as proof of the danger posed by drug suspects.

The president has, however, often threatened drug suspects with death and promised he would never allow policemen to rot in jail for doing their work in speeches critics say have helped promote impunity and foster abuses.

Duterte said, without elaborating, on Monday that Halili’s killing may have been linked to illegal drugs.

At least three mayors accused by his administration of involvement in the drug trade have been killed in raids by or clashes with the police.

Halili, who drew attention two years ago when he paraded drug suspects in a shame campaign, had strongly denied any links with illegal drugs.

Police said on Tuesday the killer used a rifle and took position on a grassy hill about 160 meters from where Halili stood in a well-planned attack.

Bote, 57, was not on any list of drug suspects, according to the government’s main anti-drug agency. Police did not immediately report any further details on his killing.

“We assure everyone that we would discharge the state obligation for every murder,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

“We will spare no effort in getting to the bottom of this latest violent crime.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies