A town mayor who had been tagged by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte as a narco-politician was gunned down Friday in the central island of Cebu, authorities said.
David Navarro, 50, was the second government official killed this month in the Southeast Asian nation. Two weeks ago, Charlie Yuson III, a vice mayor from central Masbate province, was gunned down while having breakfast in Manila, although investigators have not determined a motive for his attack.
Navarro, the mayor of Clarin town in the southern Philippine province of Misamis Occidental, was arrested by police Thursday on allegations that he beat up a massage therapist in the central city of Cebu. He was traveling to the city prosecutor’s office on Friday along with two police escorts when they were ambushed, regional police chief Brig. Gen. Valeriano De Leon said.
One of the officers escorting him, Master Sgt. Carlo Balosato, said a white vehicle blocked their way and a man grabbed Navarro before shooting him at close range. The mayor died instantly, while the police officers were not harmed and the suspects quickly fled the scene.
“They just shot him,” Balosato told reporters. “We were not able to fire back because it happened so quickly.”
Two other police and two aides of the mayor were wounded in the attack, which happened just outside the city prosecutor’s office.
Navarro was among the politicians allegedly linked to the drug trade included in a list Duterte made public in March. He was the 21st local executive official killed since Duterte took office in 2016 and launched his bloody crackdown on illegal drugs.
Navarro was a known associate of Reynaldo Parojinog, a southern Philippine mayor who was killed along with his wife and 13 bodyguards in 2017. Duterte also accused Parojinog and his wife of being involved in the drug trade.
Official police statistics show almost 7,000 suspected addicts and dealers have been killed during the past three years in what authorities had described as gunfights during legitimate anti-narcotics operations. Human rights organizations have estimated thousands more were killed.
Duterte faces two separate murder cases in the International Criminal Court linked to thousands of deaths in his drug war. In response, he withdrew the Philippines from an international treaty that created the court.
He has vowed the drug war would continue until his last day in office, although his anti-narcotics campaign has recently taken a public beating when the country’s national police chief was forced to resign after being linked to an illegal anti-drug operation.