MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday denied claims that the killing of Tanauan City, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili was state-sponsored.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said allegations that the government was behind the mayor’s killing remains an “unfounded” speculation considering that police are not yet done in its investigation.
“Apparently iba’t ibang aspeto ngayon ang lumalabas sa pagpatay kay [Mayor] Halili at mayroong aspeto na it was borne out of the drug trade. Although mayroon pang dalawang anggulo- pulitika at negosyo,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
(Apparently there are differents aspects now emerging in Halili's killing and there's an aspect that it was borne out of the drug trade. Although there are two other angles- politics and business.)
Halili was assassinated Monday as he attended a flag ceremony in his city.
Hours after his death, President Rodrigo Duterte slammed Halili, saying the latter's shame campaign against crime suspects were a front for his illegal activities, including the narcotics trade.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said the Halili family confided in him and that they suspect the government was behind the mayor’s slay.
Halili was included in the government’s list of politicians suspected of involvement in the narcotics trade. His family denied this.
Critics have said the government’s “narco-list” has become a virtual kill list of local officials and other personalities accused of involvement in the drug trade. Roque denied this, saying “there is no mandate to kill them.”
“It’s part of law enforcement. These are individuals whom law enforcement officers must closely monitor. If there’s sufficient evidence, they should be charged. If there’s no sufficient evidence, then it should lead to case build-up,” Roque said.
Amid the spate of killings of local officials, members of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines met with Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde and Department of the Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Eduardo Año to air their concerns.
Roque said local officials have expressed their concern over the government’s vetting process that led to the creation of the narco-list.
He said the officials want to be part of the verification process to ensure that no innocent individual will be included on the list.
Three other mayors on the "narco-list" have been shot dead, including Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte; Reynaldo "Aldong" Parojinog of Ozamiz City; and Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
Another mayor, Ferdinand Bote of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija, was shot dead by an unidentified gunman a day after Halili's killing. He had no known drug links, police said.