Lawmaker contests 'shootout' tag in ambush-slay of Calbayog City mayor

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Lawmaker contests 'shootout' tag in ambush-slay of Calbayog City mayor
Photo shows former Calbayog City Mayor Ronaldo Aquino. The post by the local government's city information office reads: "Requiescat in Pace Mayor Ronaldo Aquino."
Calbayog City Information Office on Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — No shootout took place when Calbayog City Mayor Ronald Aquino was murdered on Monday evening, a lawmaker said, accusing the national police of turning the story around. 

To recall, Aquino and his three bodyguards were killed in an ambush in Barangay Lonoy, Calbayog on Monday evening, as he was on the way to attend the birthday party of his son.

He was 58 years old and serving his third and final term as the city's mayor. 

Initial police reports said that the group of Aquino was onboard a van when shooters onboard two different vehicles fired on the victims.

Speaking in an interview aired over DZMM TeleRadyo, Rep. Edgar Sarmiento (Samar 1st District) said that it was uniformed police personnel who carried out the murder. 

"They had bonnets and M203 grenade launchers. It was planned well," Sarmiento said in mixed Filipino and English. 

"It pains me that this is what's happening while we're in a pandemic. Why is this happening? That's what I'm wondering. I can't understand it. I hope the mayor is given justice. Why [is the police] turning the narrative around? I don't understand that," he added in tears. 

Contrary to a report by Police Gen. Debold Sinas, the chief of the Philippine National Police, that the mayor and his aides fired back, Sarmiento said that it was Aquino's vehicle was fired on first and that no exchange of fire took place.

Sarmiento added that he himself spoke with Sinas to forward photos of the crime scene and other information. He also raised the possibility the police would link the late mayor to illegal drugs, a prospect he staunchly denied. 

Police Brig. Gen. Brandi Usana, PNP spokesperson, said in a statement sent to reporters that Police Regional Office 8 has been ordered to "conduct a thorough investigation on the supposed incident." He added, "We will keep the public informed at the soonest possible time."

In 2011, then-Calbayog City Mayor Reynaldo Uy was also shot and killed by unknown gunmen.

The case remains unsolved to this day. 

This comes just two days after what progressive groups call Bloodbath Sunday, when nine activists and labor organizers were shot and killed by joint police and military forces who were supposedly serving search warrants for illegal explosives. 

"Mr. President, the people of Samar are seeking justice for the slain father of the city. I know that as a former mayor yourself, you know," Sarmiento said. "I am asking for help. I can't get justice from the Philippine National Police. I believe so."




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