By Martin Sadongdong
Slain Tanauan City, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili had knowledge that somebody was planning to kill him even before the fateful flag-raising ceremony last July 2 at the city hall, a ranking police official disclosed Friday.
Chief Superintendent Edward Carranza, Calabarzon Police Regional Office director, revealed this after talking with Halili’s close-in security aides.
Despite the threat to his life, Halili failed to direct his close-in bodyguards to conduct stricter security measures that would have prevented the incident.
“I have asked his people [and] accordingly, the mayor had been stating na (that) he’s a target,” Carranza said. It was not clear whether Halili told someone whose thought was the brains behind the killing, described by police as “spotless” and “well-planned.”
Up until Friday, no clear evidence on the identity of the gunman has been gathered by investigators apart from a handful of statements from witnesses, closed-circuit television (CCTV) footages, and an empty shell.
“Bakit hindi pinuwestuhan yung high ground (Why was the high ground not manned) and I asked why did they [security aides] allow tall grasses to grow?Ang sabi nila (They said) they used to cut the grasses but with the onset of rainy season, medyo napabayaan (it was not addressed) so nobody was positioned in that area,” he added.
Among the new possible motives being eyed by the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Halili are inside job, land dispute with a former general, and the mayor’s alleged involvement in jueteng activities.
Earlier, probers identified three possible motives behind the killing, including either his alleged involvement in illegal drugs or his controversial “Walk of Shame” campaign for drug suspects and other criminals; politics and business.
Change of tone
Police have also established that the gunman was exactly 76.8 meters away from the target, a bit far from the initial assessment given by the PNP Crime Laboratory of 160 to 200 meters.
It appears this was the reason Carranza said the gunman was only “proficient” in using long firearms. Initially, police described the gunman as highlyskilled after citing the distance from where the shooter’s spot was discovered.
“We have corrected our data that the previous statement given was 160 meters. I have asked crime [laboratory] bakit ‘yunangibinigayniyong initial (why did you give that initial assessment)?” Carranza clarified.
“They have told me that they have measured the ground using a range finder map. We have corrected the data that the air distance of the gunman is at 76.8 meters [to clear] ‘yung speculation na malayung-malayo (it was really, really far),” he added.
At a distance of 76.8 meters, Carranza explained that anybody proficient in handling a long firearm will surely hit the target. He also said that if the gunman was a sniper, he would clearly go for a headshot instead of a shot to the chest.
“Body shot ang tinira niya (He took a body shot), that is a bigger target so hindi siya ganoon ka-confident (he’s not that confident),” he said.
Gunman waited for hours?
The possibility that the gunman and a suspected spotter or cohort arrived at the shooter’s nest several hours before the 8 a.m. flag-raising ceremony is also being looked into by the investigators.
“For sure, he used the cover of darkness to preposition [himself],” Carranza said.
This might explain why nobody saw the gunman and a suspected spotter enter the grassy field.
As to the exfiltration of the gunman, SITG Halili commander, Senior Superintendent Nolasco Bathan, said the field is a 180-degree exit route.
“Wala tayong ma-determine talaga na definitive exit route ng mga possible suspects (We can’t determine a definite exit route of the gunman),”Bathan said.
At least three persons of interest are being investigated by the police but their identities and background information have not yet been released as it may jeopardize the ongoing investigation.