Philippine Presidential Guard Found Dead Inside Palace Complex

Felipe Villamor
2017.09.26
Manila
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170926-PH-suicide-620.jpg Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (center) speaks to reporters at Malacañang presidential palace in Manila, Feb. 28, 2017.
AFP/HO

An officer of the elite presidential unit in charge of Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte’s security died of a self-inflicted wound Tuesday in an apparent suicide inside the tightly secured compound, triggering a security clampdown.

Duterte was believed to be far away when the incident took place, and police have ruled out foul play into the death of Maj. Harim Gonzaga, 37, at the presidential Malacañang palace compound.

Gonzaga was “found lifeless due to a gunshot wound in his chest area while he was inside his quarters” shortly before work hours Tuesday, the Presidential Security Group said in a statement.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella declined to say if Duterte was in the palace compound when the shooting occurred.

“It’s being investigated and the nature of the situation needs to be clarified,” he told reporters “We don’t know the exact nature of this incident.”

While a security clampdown has been ordered, group commander Lope Dagoy told reporters “foul play” or terrorism were being ruled out as the cause of Gonzaga’s death. Dagoy said police were investigating the shooting.

Over the weekend, as was his usual practice, Duterte was in his hometown of Davao city in the south.

The 72-year-old leader is known to be a late riser and it was not clear whether he was in his Bahay ng Pagbabago (House of Change) residence separated by a waterway from the main presidential palace compound.

“I assume the president was there when the incident happened, but he was far away from the source of the gunshot,” Dagoy said.

Gonzaga’s widow, who also works as part of the presidential security escort, has told investigators they did not have any recent major fights. She said the deceased officer had complained of work-related pressures, Dagoy said without elaborating.

Since Duterte took office in June 2016, more than 8,000 suspected drug dealers and addicts have been killed by police and unknown vigilantes.

The longtime mayor of the southern city of Davao, Duterte has said he dislikes staying in the presidential palace and often returns to his hometown on weekends.

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