Police in the Philippine province of Batangas have launched a manhunt for a sniper on the loose who killed the mayor of Tanauan city Antonio Halili at a flag-raising ceremony outside the city hall at 8.10am on Monday.
President Rodrigo Duterte (pictured) said the murder of Halili, who is known for parading drugs suspects in public, could be related to illegal drugs. The mayor had alleged links to drugs trade which he vehemently denied.
Halili was felled by a single bullet in front of shocked civic officials as they were singing the national anthem. Videos posted on social media show Halili being hit by a bullet. He tries to take cover but slumps on the pavement.
He later died at CP Reyes Hospital.
Sen. Ralph Recto, who hails from Batangas province, condemned Halili’s killing, local reports say. The incident exposed the deteriorating law and order situation in Batangas, he said.
The province is littered with bodies of victims of political assassinations. Each unsolved killing emboldens the next, creating a cycle of violence, which authorities cannot stop, Recto said.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of Liberal Party, said Monday’s incident was a case of extrajudicial killing spawned by the government’s war on drugs which began two years ago. He said this could be an act of revenge as the victims knew who killed their family.
Sen. Nancy Binay too condemned the killing saying the senseless disregard for human life should stop and authorities should quickly bring the perpetrators to justice.
Since the war on drugs began after Duterte took office, more than 4,200 people, mostly the urban poor, had been killed in the crackdown, according to the government.
Rights groups say this figure could be as high as 12,000.