By Martin Sadongdong
If there is one common denominator that the Philippine National Police (PNP) has observed in the alarming string of killings last week, it was that all victims are elected officials.
However, PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde refused to believe the killings of Tanauan City, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili; General Tinio, Nueva Ecija Mayor Ferdinand Bote; and Trece Martires, Cavite Vice Mayor Alexander Lubigan signify a pattern or a trend.
“The only common denominator that we have seen is that all of them are elected officials but I think it’s coincidental. It is not a trend. Them being elected officials have no connection or whatsoever in the motives that we are investigating,” Albayalde said in a press briefing at Camp Crame in Quezon City on Monday.
However, of the three cases, politics is being considered as a possible motive in the killings of Halili and Lubigan.
Halili reportedly had a dispute with a former general who had plans to rival him as mayor of Tanauan City.
Meanwhile, Lubigan was killed just last Saturday, a day after he announced in his inner circle that he would run for the mayoralty race in the forthcoming 2019 midterm elections.
In fact, Chief Supt. Edward Carranza, regional director of Calabarzon Police Regional Office (PRO-4A), said they have invited Melandres de Sagun, the third term mayor of Trece Martires City, for a statement as part of their investigation.
“It is inherent that we get their statement regarding the incident. This is the same process in the PNP that when an assistant chief of police is killed, the first thing we ask is the chief of police. In this case, we have to talk to the mayor,” Carranza said.
As to the case of Bote, Albayalde said they will “most likely” rule out politics since the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has established a “strong and good” case on it.
Albayalde refused to divulge information on the lead they are working on Bote’s case.
However, it was previously reported the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Bote is eyeing quarry and business conflict as the possible motive in the killing. Bote’s family is engaged in quarrying and construction business, according to investigators.
The PNP also revealed they have not yet received any intelligence information about the possibility that the series of killings last week is related to a destabilization plot against the Duterte administration.
Earlier, the Department of Justice has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the spate of killings of local executives to determine whether they are linked to a possible destabilization plot or not.
“We welcome that and we are also working on that [possibility.] We have our intelligence operatives for that but as of this time, we have yet received any information that would confirm this,” Albayalde said.