Palace says poll-related violence must stop

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2019 09:29 AM

Unidentified assailants attacked the vehicle of San Fernando town, Cebu mayor Lakambini Reluya Tuesday. Jude Torres, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Malacañang on Wednesday condemned the ambush of San Fernando, Cebu Mayor Lakambini Reluya, saying the culture of violence plaguing the country before the elections must end.

Three people were killed in the ambush incident in Barangay Linao, Talisay City Tuesday evening, while Reluya and her two security aides were wounded.

Reluya’s husband Ricardo, a village chief of Panadtaran, died on the spot. Also killed were driver Allan Bayot and staff Ricky Monterona.

Police said the victims came from San Fernando and were on their way to Barangay Banawa, Cebu City when unidentified assailants opened fire on their van past 6 p.m.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said political rivalry hitting fever pitch during the election is to be blamed for the ambush.

“This unfortunate and standard norm cannot continue and the culture of violence that has characterized the electoral process will have to end,” Panelo said in a statement.

“The citizenry must be vigilant and it must put to notice law enforcement authorities on any brewing electoral violence between and among the candidates and their followers in their respective localities.”

Panelo warned poll bets to stop employing violence to win “for the law on accountability shall be applied to them with full force and effect.”

The Philippine National Police has been directed to monitor areas considered hotspots and to enforce the law strictly regardless of who are involved, Panelo said.

“Violence is anathema to democracy and this administration will not allow nor tolerate any violence unleashed by any person or group that puts the voters and the general public at risk. The President is committed to shepherd peaceful, honest and orderly elections.”

Talisay City police chief Supt. Marlu Conag said the motive behind the ambush is unclear at this time.

But the attack may have been politically-motivated, he said, when Reluya was asked by police on the possible reason.

Conag said that the couple had received death threats and the perpetrators were apparently tailing them.

Reluya is seeking reelection for a second term in the May 2019 elections, while her husband was supposed to run as vice mayor.

Last week, two allies of the couple were killed in separate incidents.