A town mayor tagged by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as a narco-politician was gunned down Monday night in the capital Manila, authorities said.
Police Lt. Col. Samuel Pabonito, a local police commander, said the victim, Abdul Wahab Sabal, 45, mayor of Talitay town in the province in Maguindanao in the southern Philippines, was about to enter Mannra Hotel in downtown Manila when he was attacked.
“His companion told investigators Mr. Sabal disembarked from his vehicle and was walking toward the entrance of hotel when he heard gunshots,” Pabonito said Tuesday.
Sabal, who was rushed to a hospital, was declared dead upon arrival by attending physicians. His wife and security staff were unhurt in the incident.
Capt. Henry Navarro, chief of the Manila Police District homicide section, said Sabal’s killing could be linked to illegal drugs or politics.
“Those are angles we are looking at in our investigation,” he told reporters.
Sabal was among the politicians allegedly linked to the drug trade included in a list Duterte had made public. He was the 22nd local official killed since Duterte took office in 2016 and launched his bloody crackdown on illegal drugs.
In October 2019, David Navarro, 50, mayor of Clarin town in the southern Philippine province of Misamis Occidental, was shot and killed as he was traveling to the city prosecutor’s office. One day earlier, he had been arrested on allegations he beat up a massage therapist in the central city of Cebu.
About 6,000 suspected dealers and addicts have been killed since then, according to police official figures while local and international rights groups claim the figure could be five times greater. The majority of those killed were poor people in urban areas and despite the crackdown, drug trafficking has continued, according to officials.
Duterte previously released the names of 35 mayors, seven vice mayors, one provincial board member and three congressmen he alleged were involved in illegal drug trafficking. Included in that list was Sabal and his brother, Montasir.
Duterte faces two murder complaints before the International Criminal Court in The Hague filed by relatives of some of those killed and by two men who claimed to be ex-members of Duterte’s hit squad.