A group of vice mayors on Tuesday condemned the killing of Vice Mayor Claudio Martin Larrazabal of Villaba town in Leyte and raised suspicions that the deadly shooting was election-related.
Vice Mayors’ League of the Philippines (VMLP) President Isko Moreno, in a statement, said, “In behalf of the VMLP, we hereby condemn the senseless killing of our colleague, Vice Mayor Larrazabal and we are calling on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to exert all efforts to bring the perpetrators behind bars.”
Moreno noted that the killing could be a preview of election-related violence expected in the 2016 elections.
“This is a sad day for us and I hope this is not a prelude of what’s in store for the coming 2016 elections,” the Manila vice mayor said.
He cited that in the May 2013 elections, 19 vice mayors died because of election-related violence.
The official underlined that several cases of election-related violence involving local government officials have been reported as early as last year.
Larrazabal was shot dead by still unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen at around 11:45 a.m. on Monday while traveling to a restaurant that his family owns.
Bystanders immediately brought Larrazabal to the Ospa Farmers Medical Center in Ormoc City where he was declared dead on arrival by attending physicians, police authorities reported.
Local police officials said they had a hard time looking for witnesses even though the incident took place in a crowded place.
They related that the gunmen fled to nearby Palompon town after the shooting.
Reports also cited that that the slain vice mayor is the cousin of former election commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal. He also served as mayor of Villaba town for nine years until his term expired in 2013.
Responding policemen recovered from the crime scene 11 spent shells of .9mm caliber pistols and .45 pistols. Police investigations to identify the suspects are still underway.
Meanwhile, Moreno, who is also the First Vice President of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, called for a dialogue between local government units and the PNP to better address election-related violence.
He lamented, “Election-related violence has been a way of life in Philippine elections.”