Tue, Jul 03, 2018 - Page 6 News List

‘Sniper’ assassinates mayor in Philippines

WEEKLY CEREMONY:Antonio Halili was taking part in a flag-raising event in the parking lot outside the town hall when someone shot him from about 150m away


A cardboard stand-up of Tanauan Mayor Antonio Halili, left, remains outside his office at the municipal hall after he was shot and killed yesterday in the Philippines.

Photo: AP

A mayor on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s list of allegedly narcotics-linked officials was shot dead yesterday by a “sniper” in a broad daylight attack at a town ceremony, police said.

Tanauan Mayor Antonio Halili was hit in the chest by a single shot fired from a distance, unleashing chaotic scenes during the weekly flag raising ceremony at the town hall in town south of Manila.

He and about 300 employees and newly elected village leaders were singing the national anthem in a parking lot outside the city hall when he was shot.

In the moments that followed, terrified onlookers screamed and the mayor’s security details opened fire, video of the scene showed.

“I didn’t know that it was gunfire until people started screaming ‘Somebody’s shooting, somebody’s shooting’ while running in all directions and I saw my mayor slumped on the ground,” village leader Rico Alcazar, who was in a crowd standing behind the 72-year-old Halili, told The Associated Press. “Everybody was shocked and it took sometime before some carried the mayor and brought him away in a car.”

The shooter managed to escape and Halili was pronounced dead at hospital.

Town police chief Renato Mercado said the shot was fired from about 150m away.

“The distance from the position was extraordinary. It could not be done by an ordinary person. His skill can be compared to a trained sniper,” he said.

The controversial Halili had compared himself to Duterte as he publicly shared the president’s hardline position against crime and illegal drugs, but last year Halili’s name surfaced on a “narco-list” presented by Duterte, of officials allegedly linked to narcotics.

Halili was stripped of control of the police following the publication of the list, but he denied any ties to drugs.

Though the Philippines sees occasional slayings of local politicians, the brazen nature of the killing and links to Duterte’s drug war drew immediate outrage.

“This is clearly another case of EJK [extra-judicial killing] resulting from the so-called drug war launched by the government,” Philippine Senator Francis Pangilinan, an opposition leader, said in a statement.

“It is this Philippine image of a ‘wild, wild west’ that has also dampened the desire of both foreign and local investors,” he added.

The government has said that more than 4,200 suspects have been killed as part of the war on drugs, but rights groups charge that the actual death toll is three times higher and that the police and shadowy vigilantes are murdering people even without proof they are linked to drugs.

Three other mayors on the “narco-list” have been shot dead.

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque condemned the crime and praised Halili as the mayor of “one of the most progressive towns” in his province.

Additional reporting by AP

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