By Dane Angelo M. Enerio
Malacañang Palace on Tuesday evening (July 3) said it was confident the Philippine National Police (PNP) “would be able to conduct a fair and thorough investigation” on the assassinations of Tanauan (Batangas) Mayor Antonio C. Halili and General Tinio (Nueva Ecija) Mayor Ferdinand P. Bote.
Mr. Bote was ambushed on Tuesday afternoon by unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen outside the office of the National Irrigation Administration in Cabanatuan City while Mr. Halili was shot the day before by an unidentified assailant during his city government’s weekly flag ceremony.
Aside from being able to solve the murders, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque also said PNP Director-General Oscar G. Albayalde would be able to “bring the perpetrators to justice.”
“We assure everyone that we would discharge the state obligation for every murder,” Mr. Roque told reporters hours after the death of Mr. Bote.
According to him, the government, “will spare no effort in getting to the bottom of this latest violent crime.”
President Rodrigo R. Duterte had accused Mr. Halili of being involved in illegal drugs as he was named in the government’s “narco-list” of suspected drug personalities and cohorts. When asked if the same could be said for Mr. Bote, Mr. Roque told reporters the General Tinio mayor was “not (in) the narcolist” and that he was even “a supporter of (Mr. Duterte.)”
Sought for comment on the death of Mr. Bote, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra on Tuesday evening told reporters in a text message he has “given direct orders to the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) to investigate (the) two murders in a row.”
The assassinations are the latest in a trend of violent crimes committed in broad daylight, following the murders of former state prosecutor Salvador Soliman on Monday and Nueva Ecija priest Richmon Nilo last June 10.
Mr. Soliman was the fifth prosecutor while Mr. Nilo was the third priest to have been killed in a similar manner in the past six months.
In a press statement released on Tuesday night, Senator Francis “Kiko” N. Pangilinan described Mr. Bato’s death as, “a wrenching reminder of the breakdown of law and order in the country.”
“This administration ran on a strong anti-crime platform, but two years after, what we see instead is widespread criminality, lawlessness, and corruption,” he said.
According to him, “Mayor Bote was a humble, hard-working, and upright public servant in our community.”
Senator Emmanuel J. Villanueva, for his part, said, “the series of killings in broad daylight are seriously alarming.”
“We urge the authorities to investigate the brazen killing of our local officials. Perpetrators must be immediately held liable and justice must be served,” he said in a statement also released on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, opposition Senators Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel and Antonio F. Trillanes IV blamed Mr. Duterte for bringing what they described as “the dark ages” to the country as he had introduced a “culture of violence” with his remarks and actions.
Mr. Duterte, known for throwing expletives and making threats, has been criticized by local and foreign watch groups, politicians, and activists due to his administration’s ongoing anti-drug campaign which the PNP said has resulted in the deaths of 4,200 suspected drug dealers. — with a report from Arjay L. Balinbin and Camille A. Aguinaldo