Mayors, Vice Mayors under Siege
Screencapture of ABS-CBN (Vice mayor Sema)
Former and current city and municipal government executives have been the victims of numerous assassination attempts. The latest string of attacks on former and serving Mayors, Vice Mayors, their kin, and aides have risen over the past few months. While sporadic, the common trend among the shootings is that they almost all occur outside of NCR. The latest victims are Mayor Restituto Abad of Carranglan town and his driver in Nueva Ecija, former Vice Mayor Anthony Purisima Que in Ilocos Sur, and Cotobato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema. Other politically-related shootings involve the slaying of the nephew of a recently slain mayor from Batangas, and the shooting of an aide of a former Ilocos vice mayor. All of the incidents happened in the first two months of the year alone.
The following is a list of recent former or current Mayors and Vice Mayors, and people connected to them:
3-23-11-- Former Alitagtag Vice Mayor Noriel Salazar was shot dead. He was a former union president of Coco Chem Corporation in Bauan, Batangas. Suspects were rode a motorcycle.
4-19-11-- Tagana-an, Surigao del Norte Mayor Cesar Diaz was unharmed when suspected NPA rebels attacked them. Two others were wounded.
5-1-11-- Mayor Reynaldo Uy was shot and killed, while board member Eunice Babalcon was also shot but survived in Calbayog City, Samar during a town fiesta celebration. The victim, a vocal supporter of President Benigno S. Aquino III, was killed by a Lone Gunman.
6-28-11-- The house of Mayor Pedro Flores of Mallig town in Isabela province was shot at by an undetermined number of unidentified gunmen, no one was hurt in the incident.
10-27-11-- Former vice mayor of Massim, Sawab Pangolima of Sarangani province was shot dead. The lone assailant was later arrested. The reason for the shooting is linked to an ongoing family feud.
12-15-11-- Talisay Vice mayor Florencio Manimtim Jr. was shot dead at the Mall of Asia in Pasay. The two gunmen escaped via motorcycle.
12-21-11-- Vice Mayor Carlito Bayawa was shot dead and his wife, Susan suffered a gunshot wound. Bayawa’s family owns numerous agri-businesses in Siay, Zamboanga Sibugay. Susan Bayawa is the municipal treasurer Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay. The lone gunman escaped via a waiting motorcycle.
1-11-12-- MNLF chairman and Cotabato City Vice mayor Muslimin Sema survived an attack by unidentified gunmen in what is being seen by the MNLF as an isolated Incident. He is also a former Peace Panel member.
1-11-12-- Kristopher Dalija, nephew and aide of a former Mayor in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte province was shot dead. He was killed by gunmen riding a motorcycle. Authorities believe his job is related to the incident.
1-17-12-- The nephew and a bodyguard of slain Talisay Vice mayor Florencio Manimtim Jr of Talisay, Batangas was shot dead a few weeks after the death of his uncle.
2-1-12-- Anthony “Tony Boy” Purisima Que, former Vice mayor of Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur was shot along Poblacion West, San Ildefonso, by two unidentified men.
2-4-12-- Mayor Restituto Abad of Carranglan, Nueva Ecija and his driver were hurt as they were ambushed by two gunmen in Saranay village in Guimba. The suspects escaped using a motorcycle.
There are very few connections between the strings of shootings spread across the country for the past few months since the frequency increased. Mapping out the recent incidence would show that they all fall outside the NCR, save for one. At the same time, the targets are officials of cities or towns outside the metro. The motives of the attack are political to a certain extent. While most of the developments in several cases are still under wraps, several reasons for the attacks can be attributed to: business- related conflicts, rebel insurgency, criminal group retaliation, political feud between families or individuals, and personal retaliation by individuals. The places where they are killed are usually open roads and or near their place of work when there are no authorities around. This shows that the attacks were well-planned and observations of the victims and surroundings were thorough. The pattern of attacks reveals a low level of personal and area security around the victim (except for one).
The targets of the attacks are usually not the only ones harmed by the assailants. The victims include the companions of the targets: aides, drivers, and family members. In some cases, the other victims are also considered prime target of the suspects as they also are high value, like the case of Susan Bayawa. However, overall, the gunmen are able to plan attacks to a point that uninvolved civilians are rarely injured or present during the attacks.
The Usual Suspects
The primary modus operandi of the assailants, regardless of their location of operation is very consistent. They usually are a team of two men with a motorcycle for an escape vehicle. Either one of them or two of them are carrying a weapon. They usually ambush the victims while they are in transit or are in an environment or situation where security is low or easy to compromise. They do not choose a particular time of the day to attack and usually attack based on the pattern established by then targets. For the most part, the suspects are probably hired hit men with the masterminds isolated from the incident. Outside of the assassination conducted by the NPA, the weapons used are usually handguns (.38 – .45 calibre in range) which are easily concealed.
Tighter security procedures and more competent security management could have prevented or mitigated the effects of the attacks to significant extent. While it would be taxing to local resources, high value targets, particularly officials, require professional-level security around them, during and even after their terms. Otherwise, former city officials’ security would be easily compromised by elements seeking retribution for past actions.