The mayor of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija was gunned down by still unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants while traversing Cabanatuan City in his vehicle yesterday afternoon, a day after the killing of the mayor of Tanauan City in Batangas.
Cabanatuan City police said Mayor Ferdinand Bote, 57, was pronounced dead when they arrived at the MV Gallego Cabanatuan General Hospital after his ambush was reported by a motorist around 4:37 p.m.
Bote was in his Toyota Fortuner with license plate AAB-2020 being driven by his bodyguard-driver, Jennifer “Jokoy” Salvador, and about to go out of the National Irrigation Administration compound along Maharlika Highway in Barangay Imelda, when one of the two suspects approached and shot the mayor several times.
Bote was sitting in the front passenger side of the sports utility vehicle, beside the driver.
Close-circuit television (CCTV) footage showed the driver was apparently waiting to cross the road which was taken advantage of by the killer.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde immediately ordered the Cabanatuan City Police to create a special investigation task group (SITG) to look into the murder of Bote.
“Nakikiramay po si PNP chief Albayalde at ang direktiba na kaagad na bumuo ng (PNP chief Albayalde is extending his sympathy and has directed the immediate creation of a) SITG and right after that incident, an officer on-case conduct investigation to get to the bottom of the incident,” PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Benigno Durana Jr. said.
Durana assured the public justice would be served to Bote and Halili.
“Makakaasa kayo na ang PNP ay gagawin (You can count on the PNP) within the bounds of the law to get the killers of the mayors,” he said.
Durana said investigators have talked to witnesses to give accounts to establish the identity and the motive of the suspect.
He cautioned against insinuations that the murder of Halili and Bote are connected.
“It was not established if they are related incidents. Geographically speaking ay malayo ang Batangas at Nueva Ecija (Batangas and Nueva Ecija are far from each other),” he said.
“It does seem odd that these killings happened a day apart, and in broad daylight. The PNP does not condone these seemingly brazen acts of violence and will look into this matter very closely,” he added.
In a radio interview, NIA-Cabanatuan manager Rose Bote (not related to the mayor) said the slain mayor was on board his vehicle being driven by his bodyguard-driver and was about to go out of the NIA compound around 4:30 p.m. when a gunman, wearing a black long-sleeved shirt, approached the vehicle of the victim and shot him several times.
Footage from the CCTV of NIA captured the actual shooting, which showed the gunman was about two feet away from the vehicle when he fired several times.
Durana said investigators would double their effort to solve the case, including the analysis of CCTV footage.
“Our investigators will check all the available evidence, the autopsy, CCTV footage available, not only testimonial but also the physical evidence will be analyzed,” he said.
“This is the golden hour, the first 72 hours; as investigators, we refrain from commenting so much. This is a critical hour for our investigators. We will give them time and space for them to do their job. Ang hangarin po ng PNP ay mabigyan ng justice itong mga incident na ito (The PNP aims to give justice to the victims of these incidents),” he added.
Central Luzon Police Director Chief Supt. Amador Corpus assured the family of the slain mayor of immediate investigation to unmask the culprits of the ambush.
He asked the public to give information that will lead to the identification and arrest of the killers through their hotlines 0998-5985330 and 0927-9464741.
Bote’s slay came a day after Tanauan City mayor Antonio Halili, who was known for his “walk of shame” campaign on suspected drug dealers, was shot dead from a distance on Monday morning, during the weekly flag-raising ceremony for local government officials.
Bote was not included in the narco list, or the list of government officials with suspected links to the illegal drug trade, of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), its chief director general Aaron Aquino said yesterday.
“He is not on the narco list,” he confirmed in a text message.
Malacañang has expressed optimism that the police would be able to run after the persons behind the assassination of Bote.
“We are confident that PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde would be able to conduct a fair and thorough investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday.
“We assure everyone that we would discharge the state obligation for every murder. We will spare no effort in getting to the bottom of this latest violent crime,” he added.
The Palace also extended its “deep condolence” to the bereaved family of the mayor.
PDP Laban president Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III was saddened by the killing of Bote, who was a member of the party.
“Yes, he was a partymate. Masakit na balita ’yan. Nakakalungkot (It’s heartbreaking news. Sad),” Pimentel said.
Pimentel urged members of the PNP to increase their visibility in order to deter these types of crimes from happening, especially against local government officials.
He also called on the PNP to solve these crimes immediately and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The police force, according to the senator, should also be more aggressive in going after loose firearms and to work on bringing down the number of firearms in general.
WATCH | Another mayor shot dead in Nueva Ecija
4/ 5Oleh BNP Correspondent