Gunmen opened fire outside Manila International Airport yesterday, officials said, killing four people including the mayor of a town in the southern Philippines, where political violence is endemic.
Terrified men and women screamed and cried while a man, apparently fatally wounded, lay face down on the pavement outside the passenger terminal in a video clip uploaded to the local GMA TV network’s Web site.
The dead included Labangan Mayor Ukol Talumpa, his wife, his 18-month-old grandson and a male aide, Philippine Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima told reporters.
“I understand that was the third attempt on the life of the mayor and this time the culprits succeeded,” De Lima said. “It’s extremely deplorable that even the wife, grandson and a staff [assistant] were also killed.”
An airport policeman, who asked not to be named, said he was on duty about 10m away when the mayor and his party were attacked.
“I heard gunshots so I whipped out my pistol and ran to the area, but the gunman had fled. He had an accomplice on a motorcycle,” the officer said.
“People were shocked and just stood there so I could not shoot,” he added.
“We tried to chase them in a police van, but got caught up in the traffic,” he said, adding the gunman was wearing a police cap and a blue jacket.
Talumpa, an opposition leader who was the town’s former vice mayor, had in elections in May this year defeated the incumbent mayor, who is a political ally of Philippine President Benigno Aquino.
He had earlier survived a grenade attack that injured a police bodyguard in the troubled southern region of Mindanao in September last year and also escaped an assassination attempt in Manila in 2010, provincial officials said.
The Philippines is infamous for a brutal brand of democracy where politicians — particularly at local and provincial levels — are willing to bribe, intimidate or kill to ensure they win.
More than 60 people were killed in May’s elections, when 18,000 posts were contested.
Talumpa and his party were attacked yesterday as they stepped out of the passenger terminal shortly after getting off a flight from the southern Philippines, Manila airport general manager Angel Honrado said.
Honrado said the authorities did not know the identity of the gunmen nor the motive for the attack.
In the footage obtained by GMA, which it said was taken by a bystander, spilled luggage and trolleys lay scattered on the curb on both sides of the gunned-down man.
Two other people were shown crouching on the curb, while the voices of screaming men and women could be heard.
A taxi cab and four vans, all their doors open, were stopped on the driveway, with the hazard lights of one van still blinking on and off.
“This is a very unfortunate incident that did happen at Terminal 3,” Honrado said. “Government agencies are trying their best to determine the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”
He appealed to other passengers who witnessed the shooting to help the police identify the suspects.
A spokesman for the provincial government of Zamboanga del Sur, which includes Labangan, told reporters that Talumpa, a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition Party, had flown to Manila earlier in the day with his wife, two nephews and six other people.