Gunmen killed 12 people in an ambush on a Philippine mayor, officials said yesterday, in the deadliest of a string of violent incidents that have marred campaigning for next month’s elections.
The attackers opened fire on a truck carrying Mayor Abdulmalik Manamparan and his supporters on southern Mindanao Island late on Thursday, local military commander Colonel Ricardo Jalad said.
“They killed my granddaughter,” Manamparan, 62, said from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for a shrapnel wound that grazed his head.
Another seven people were injured in the attack, which a police official blamed on long-running clan disputes by Muslim families in the country’s troubled south.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the authorities are attempting to establish the identities and motives of the attackers.
“We appeal to the supporters of the different candidates to keep calm and continue to campaign for their particular candidates,” she said.
The ambush on a remote mountain road near Nunungan town, unleashed as the mayor and his party traveled home from a campaign event, was the latest episode of political violence in a country that will hold midterm elections on May 13.
A running police tally lists 30 deaths from 45 other violent incidents reported since the start of the campaign in February.
In November 2009, members of a powerful clan on Mindanao abducted and murdered 58 people including relatives of a local rival who was planning to challenge the clan leader in gubernatorial elections the following year.
Manamparan is the mayor of the mainly Muslim town of Nunungan.
He is standing for the lower post of vice-mayor.
His son and namesake who is running for mayor, was not among the ambush casualties.
The family is running against candidates backed by the president’s Liberal Party.
The mayor said he had a good idea who was responsible for the attack, but declined to discuss his suspicions.
Senior Superintendent Gerardo Rosales, the provincial police chief, said investigators are checking the involvement of certain clans which had had previous scraps with the Manamparan family.
“They [survivors] identified the attackers last night, they gave us names ... They told us it was a family feud,” Rosales told reporters.
Colonel Jalad said the ambush was the first big incident of political violence in Nunungan in the past year.
Mindanao is also wracked by insurgencies waged by Muslim and communist rebels, and officials say that some of this year’s election violence has been committed by communist guerrillas extorting money from candidates.
New People’s Army rebels ambushed Ruth Guingona, the 78-year-old mayor of the southern city of Gingoog on Sunday, killing two of her aides and wounding her and two policemen.
More than 18,000 posts are at stake in the balloting, from town mayors and governors to members of parliament.
Local press reports yesterday said two election campaigners in a province near Manila were killed and another wounded in an ambush on Thursday, while a district official was killed on the same day in a bomb blast elsewhere on Mindanao.