Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde said they have identified the mastermind in the murder of Gen.Tinio, Nueva Ecija Mayor Ferdinand Bote while politics are being considered as motives behind the latest killing of Vice Mayor in Sapa-Sapa, Tawi-Tawi.
The killings have been described by Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on public order, as “unsettling and terrifying”—at the same time as Senator Francis Escudero called on the police to do their job and secure the safety not only of elected officials but of ordinary citizens as well.
Albayalde said the architect in Bote’s slaying had been established based on the confession of two of the arrested suspects—Florencio Suarez and Roberto Gumacay—who were intercepted at a checkpoint in Del Gallego, Camarines Sur on Wednesday.
The top cop, however, declined to disclose the identity of the mastermind in Bote’s liquidation as the person was still being chased down.
Poe noted that one unsolved killing would beget another, adding if there were no arrests, there would be no deterrence.
In the Philippines, which will hold mid-term polls in May next year, she noted killings were happening before the elections.
“Why, how much is being paid to a hitman, let’s say P100,000. That’s on the high side,” she asked.
She also questioned how much one would spend in an election if the political opponent was a politically popular and strong candidate.
And the sad thing, according to Poe, was that she thought the war on drugs was being used as a smokescreen for political killings. This means, “they will say that the person killed was included in the drug list.”
“So if I am the opponent, and my rival is in the drug list, if the latter got killed, people would say ‘it’s because of drugs,’ but the truth was its politics.”
“Now whatever the reason is, murder is murder. So you don’t want to have a state of lawlessness, definitely this has to stop otherwise, again, you know the government may be succeeding in their (sic) war on drugs but there are other forms of violence that need to be controlled,” Poe said.
Asked if she’s satisfied with how the PNP was handling the killings, Poe admitted there was a breakdown on law enforcement.
“But you know, I like General [Oscar] Albayalde, I think he’s a credible man. On the other hand, the PNP is a huge institution, I think they have to get the message that you have to solve these killings, otherwise, your effectivity is diminished,” said Poe.
He said Gumacay, assisted by his lawyer while Suarez, without a lawyer, admitted shooting Bote before interrogators following their arrest.
At least four to eight firearms, most of the .45 cal. pistols and some unregistered guns, believed by police to have been used in the Bote killing, were recovered from the suspects.
PNP tracker teams are still pursuing four other suspects in Bote’s assassination which Albayalde linked to business rivalry.
Meanwhile, Albayalde said investigators were not discounting politics as the motive behind the killing of Sapa-Sapa town Vice Mayor Alrashid Mohammad Alih on Wednesday afternoon.
At present, Albayalde said they were not seeing other links to the vice mayor killings aside from running for mayor to succeed his father on his last term in the May 2019 elections.
Ali was the second vice mayor killed following the liquidation of Alexander Lubigan of Trece Martires City, Cavite last Saturday.
He hinted that some of the killings might be linked to the 2019 elections while the PNP was preparing security measures ahead of the political exercise to prevent the upsurge of political violence.
“In every election in our country, there had been killings or ambush of candidates, possible candidates among losers or even those who won. I don’t know if we can call it a trend but there are many incidents of shootings in the run-up to the elections,” Albayalde said.