By Camille A. Aguinaldo
SENATOR Panfilo M. Lacson on Thursday said the family of slain Tanauan City Mayor Antonio C. Halili suspect the government was behind his murder last Monday.
“The family shared their suspicions to me yesterday that the government may have been involved. I wanted to ease their mind and calm them so they would not prejudge and wait for the police to conduct their investigation,” Mr. Lacson said at the Kapihan sa Senado forum on Thursday.
“As indicated to me by the family when I visited yesterday afternoon, they are implying some indicators. It’s like they are suspecting the government itself,” the senator also said in a mix of Filipino and English.
The slain mayor’s family also disclosed their “apprehensions” on whether to trust the police and also told the senator that the gunman conducted a four-week surveillance on Mr. Halili, using at least two vehicles.
“With the wherewithal and manner, stage-managed, it’s really well-planned, there is precision. Let’s say the suspect has the capacity,” said Mr. Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief.
He said Mr. Halili was a “longtime friend” whom he met when he was still a captain in the then Integrated National Police. He also dismissed allegations that the slain mayor was involved in illegal drugs.
“He was not a saint nor an angel. That much I can say. But involvement (in) drugs, at least with the limited network I also have, I know he was not involved,” he said.
The senator said he is also conducting his own inquiry into Mr. Halili’s murder.
He said the family’s suspicion should challenge the PNP, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the whole government to immediately resolve the incident.
He added that the PNP should also renew its campaign against loose firearms since the agency should be at the forefront in enforcing Presidential Decree No. 1866, which codifies the laws concerning the use of firearms, ammunition or explosives. He also reiterated calls for stricter gun control measures.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr., who was sought for comment regarding Mr. Lacson’s remarks, said, “Well, that’s a speculation. Unfounded at that, because apparently iba’t ibang aspeto ngayon ang lumalabas sa pag-imbestiga kay Halili at mayroon ding aspeto na iyon na nga (there are different aspects to the ongoing investigation on Mr. Halili’s killing, and there is also one aspect that) it is still borne out of the drug trade. That’s one of the angles that they are looking out although mayroon pang dalawang anggulo, pulitika at negosyo (there are also two other angles, business and politics).”
Mr. Roque also said of the government’s “narco-list” that “there’s no mandate to kill them (those in the list).”
On the killing of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija, Mayor Ferdinand P. Bote last Tuesday, Mr. Roque said, “In fairness, no one is accusing the government (in) the killing of Mayor Bote, because he is an administration ally.”
May aspeto ng pulitika at negosyo (There are political and business aspects on that),” he added.
Mr. Roque also said the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) had a dialogue with PNP Chief Director-General Oscar D. Albayalde.
Ilan sa mga concerns ng ULAP ay kung paano yung mga mayor na pinagbabawalan ng armas sa Mindanao dahil sa martial law. May concern din vetting process sa narco-list at ano yung proseso kung paano maalis sa listahan,” Mr. Roque said. (Among ULAP’s concerns is the ban on firearms in Mindanao, which is under martial law, and how this should be applied to the mayors. Also on the vetting process in the narco-list and the procedure to be stricken off that list.)
On the meeting with President Rodrigo R. Duterte that is being sought by the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, Mr. Roque said it is “subject to availability” of the President. “We will accommodate [them], but subject to availability.” — with Arjay L. Balinbin