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Philippine Mayor Survives Latest Assassination Attempt

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Cotabato, Philippines
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Libungan Mayor Christopher Cuan (left) raises hands with former National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa, Dec. 28, 2018.
Libungan Mayor Christopher Cuan (left) raises hands with former National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa, Dec. 28, 2018.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Cuan

A mayor in the southern Philippines who President Rodrigo Duterte named on his list of public officials allegedly tied to drug traffickers survived an assassination attempt on Monday – the second such attack in three days, police said.

Christopher Cuan, mayor of Libungan town in North Cotabato province, was inside town hall around 1:45 p.m. when an unidentified gunman opened fire but missed, police said.

“He was unhurt,” provincial police commander Senior Superintendent Maximo Layugan said referring to Cuan, whose security escorts were able to return fire although the shooter was able to escape using a getaway vehicle parked outside the town hall.

Panicked city hall employees dove for cover, but a utility worker was hit and wounded, Layugan told reporters. The employee was struck in his left knee.

“We are investigating the motive behind the attack,” Layugan said.

Previously, Duterte had listed Cuan as a “narcopolitician.”

The president, who has waved his list during public speeches, has not divulged how he determined whose name should be on it, but several mayors have been killed.

Shortly after Duterte won election in 2016, authorities raided Cuan’s properties but failed to recover illegal drugs. While the mayor has denied his involvement, the state in 2017 stripped him and other officials of power to oversee police because of alleged drug issues.

Previous killings

On Friday, Talib Abo Sr., ex-mayor of Parang town in Maguindanao province, and his brother were killed in what anti-drugs police claimed were shootouts.

The deaths came as Duterte, who is facing two complaints for murder and crime against humanity before the Hague-based International Criminal Court, warned traffickers he would slit their throats in front of human rights advocates.

Abo is the 19th local government official to be killed since Duterte took office in June 2016. The president’s supporters have said rival politicians could be behind some of the attacks ahead of the midterm election in May.

Two mayors were assassinated a day apart in July. Antonio Halili, of Tanuan city south of Manila, who was killed by a sniper during a flag-raising ceremony at a city hall, allegedly was named on Duterte’s drug list as well.

In September and October, gunmen killed a mayor in the north and one in the central city of Cebu.

To date, more than 5,000 suspected drug addicts and dealers have been killed by police in alleged shootouts during Duterte’s tenure, but rights groups have said that the figure could be as high as 20,000.

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