By Ali G. Macabalang
The North Cotabato officialdom has slammed the killing of Libungan town Mayor Christopher “Amping” Cuan and his driver on Monday, Jan. 11, urging authorities to investigate thoroughly the incident and give justice to the victims.
Governor Nancy Catamco heralded her “highest degree” of condemnation as she visited a local funeral parlor where the mayor’s cadaver was brought for processing.
The provincial media relations office released an image showing Gov. Catamco in conference with police officers at the funeral parlor and a file photo of her with the slain mayor during his lifetime.
“I have ordered the police to conduct thorough investigation on this violent incident in order to achieve full justice for Mayor Cuan and the other victim of this heinous crime,” Catamco was quoted as saying.
Vice Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza reportedly conveyed similar words of sympathy, saying Mayor Cuan’s demise had untimely orphaned “not only his family but his constituents who looked up to him for his leadership.”
Mayor Cuan and his driver, named as Edwin Ihao, had just arrived at the construction site of a cockpit arena around 11 a.m. on Jan. 11 when attacked by gunmen armed with high-powered rifles.
The duo died on the spot near the mayor’s black pickup car that reportedly had just conveyed them from Davao City to Barangay Cabaruyan, the home-village of Cuan and construction site for a cockfight pit initiated by the mayor.
A local police official told a Cotabato City-based broadcast entity that at least four armed men aboard a blue SUV vehicle staged the broad daylight attack. Empty calibers 5.56 and .45 shells were recovered from the scene, the official said.
According to raw intelligence information, construction workers witnessed the killing and saw the attackers clad with bullet-proof vests and combat headgears using two gate-away vehicles – a Toyota Avanza and HighLux Pickup.
The same raw information revealed that some of the attackers had tailed the car of the slain mayor from Davao City up to the crime scene.
Cuan, known more as Mayor Amping, had survived an earlier attack when a sniper assassin’s bullet failed to hit him in a broad daylight attack at the vicinity of Libungan town hall on Jan. 7, 2019 and hit instead a utility worker standing near him.
On Oct. 29, 2016, combined police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency operatives arrested Cuan in a raid at his home in Barangay Cabaruyan for alleged possession of firearms and illegal drugs. The raiders seized assorted firearms and ammunition, but found no illegal drugs. Cuan was freed on bail.
A day earlier, Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao and nine of his companions were killed at a police anti-drug operation checkpoint along Barangay Old Bulatukan in Makilala, North Cotabato.
Like Mayor Cuan, Dimaukom and his wife were named in President Duterte’s list of narco-politicians, and denied the allegation.
On Oct. 25, 2019, gunmen stopped a police van taking David Navarro, elected mayor of Clarin town in Cebu, to the state prosecutor’s office in Cebu City and shot him dead. Navarro was also in the President’s list.
On that list, Mayor Vicente Loot of the central town of Daanbantayan later survived a 2018 ambush, while Mayor Jed Mabilog of the central city of Iloilo went into hiding in 2017.
Two other mayors in the longer list, Rolando Espinosa and Reynaldo Parojinog, were killed by police in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Espinosa was shot dead inside a police jail.
Mayor Antonio Halili, who was assassinated by a sniper as he attended a flag-raising ceremony outside his office in Tanauan city near Manila last year, was linked by Duterte to illegal drugs hours after the attack.
Published reports attributed to the PDEA said Mayor Mariano Blanco III of Ronda, Cebu was killed by unknown gunmen at his office in 2018. Blanco was also on the government’s narcotics watch-list. AGM