Gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying politicians in the northern Philippines on Wednesday, killing the vice mayor of Balaoan and his aide and injuring eight others, including his daughter who succeeded him as mayor in 2016, police said.
The ambush in La Union province is the latest in a series of attacks on local officials in the Philippines.
Vice Mayor Al-fred Concepcion and his aide, Michael Ulep, were rushed to a hospital after the early morning ambush near the town of Balaoan in northern La Union province where they were declared dead upon arrival.
Concepcion’s daughter, Aleli, survived the attack along with seven others who suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to police.
“I have been informed that a province-wide dragnet operation is under way while an all–points bulletin has been raised to all municipal police stations to possibly intercept the suspects,” national police chief Oscar Albayalde said.
He said additional security personnel have been deployed to protect Aleli Concepcion “who survived the ambush and is now undergoing treatment.”
The national police have assured the Concepcion family that additional personnel have been deployed to ensure a speedy and thorough investigation.
“I am confident that we will eventually get to the bottom of this case and the proverbial long arm of the law will catch up with the perpetrators,” he said.
“As we speak, the provincial mobile force company and SWAT of La Union are leading massive dragnet operations,” in five adjacent towns, he said.
Police suspect the attack could be tied to intense political rivalry, but are unsure of the cause. No suspects have been named, but the Cocepcions were expected to be running again for the top elective posts in Balaoan in next May’s midterm election.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo denounced the attack as he expressed condolences to the victims’ families.
“The Philippine National Police has been directed to investigate the incident. We pursue and prosecute the persons behind these brazen murders and bring them to justice,” Panelo said.
Concepcion was the 19th local official killed since Rodrigo Duterte assumed the office of president and launched a war on drugs that also targeted local government officials on a hit list he keeps. Duterte has made it a point to show the list of public officials allegedly involved in drugs. The list included police and military officers, local officials and judges.
A lawyer, Concepcion, 61, previously served three terms as Balaoan mayor and stepped down in 2016 to give way to his daughter. He was described by his constituents as a well-liked politician.
Last month, Alexander Buquing, the mayor of Sudipen town in La Union province, his driver and a bodyguard were killed by gunmen. Buquing’s wife, Wendy Joy, suffered injuries in the attack.
Buquing, 50, was elected in 2004 after running as an independent and was re-elected in 2007 and 2010 under different political parties.
In 2007, Buquing was suspended by the government ombudsman for alleged abuse of authority, but was later cleared.
Running as an opposition Liberal Party candidate in 2016, he won again and his wife became his deputy.
In September, Mariano Blanco III, the mayor of Ronda town in central Cebu province, was sleeping inside his office before dawn when four unidentified men broke in, overpowered his bodyguards and killed him.
In July, two mayors were killed in shootings a day apart. One of the victims was Antonio Halili, mayor of Tanauan city south of Manila, who was killed by a sniper’s bullet in front of city employees during a flag-raising ceremony. Halili was stripped of his powers to supervise the city’s police force last year because of his alleged drug links.