Shootout or ambush? Palace raises alarm on Calbayog mayor's slay

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS CBN News

Posted at Mar 09 2021 02:11 PM | Updated as of Mar 09 2021 02:20 PM

Video courtesy of PTV

MANILA — Malacañang said on Tuesday it was alarmed over the killing of a mayor in what police called a shootout but a lawmaker dubbed an "ambush" by law enforcers.

Calbayog City Mayor Ronald Aquino was reportedly on his way to his child's birthday celebration when police fired at his vehicle, said Samar 1st District Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento.

Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas has said the incident was a shootout, and that Aquino's group allegedly fired first. 

"Kinukundena po natin iyan dahil ang karapatang mabuhay po ay ang pinakaimportanteng karapatan. Nanunumbalik po kami at naalarma dahil isang mayor po ang pinatay baka ito'y simula na naman ng patayan dahil sa pulitika sa panahon na papalapit na ang eleksyon," Palace spokesman Harry Roque said on the incident.

(We condemn that because the right to life is the most important right. We are alarmed because a mayor was killed and this might be the start of killings because of politics, as the elections near.)

"Ang demokrasya po, tao po ang humahalal at ang ating panawagan, hayaan po nating maghalal ang taongbayan sa pamamagitan ng pagpili ng sa tingin nila ang pinakaepektibong mga mamumuno. Itong political violence po has no place in a democracy. Kinukundena po natin iyan," he said in a press briefing.

(In a democracy, people elect leaders and our appeal is let the public choose who they think are effective. This political violence po has no place in a democracy. We condemn that.)
 
Monday's supposed encounter in Barangay Lonoy, Calbayog City also led to the death of 3 others, including Aquino's close-in security detail and driver. Sarmiento also claimed 2 members from the PNP were killed in the incident.

It is not immediately clear what caused the shootout or ambush. 

Sarmiento earlier said witnesses saw the ambush, which was conducted by police officers wearing balaclavas and wielding high-powered firearms.

"Ako'y nasasaktan na pinalalabas na shootout doon po sa ground zero. Maliwanag na maliwanag na sinasabi ng mga witnesses na talagang binaril muna ang sasakyan ni mayor," he said.

(It is painful for me that they're saying it was a shootout. It is clear according to witnesses that the mayor's vehicle was shot first.)

"Doon naman sa mga nang-ambush, masakit sabihin kaya lang mga naka uniporme ito, mga miyembro pa ng PNP. Akoy nagtataka bakit naka-bonnet at saka naka M-203 pa. Talagang handang-handa."

(To those who conducted the ambush, it is painful to say but they were in uniform, they were members of the PNP. I am wondering why they were wearing bonnet and using M-203. It was all planned.)

Sarmiento shared Roque's view that the killing "boils down to politics, the reason why Samar belongs to the top 12 poorest provinces of this land."

In 2011, then Calbayog City Mayor Reynaldo "Ining" Uy was killed by unknown assailants while attending a fiesta celebration in Hinabangan town.

Sarmiento dismissed allegations Aquino was involved in illicit drugs. 

Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look into Aquino's killing. "The proper authority will be issued by the Secretary within the day," said Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay.