UNIDENTIFIED gunmen on Tuesday fired at a van carrying San Fernando, Cebu Mayor Lakambini Reluya killing her husband and their two bodyguards, police said yesterday.
The 53-year-old Mayor Reluya and two other victims identified as Giovani Perez, 48; and Jeefer Tolentin, 41; were wounded in the attack. They were rushed to the Talisay District Hospital by responding policemen, said Police Regional Office 7 director Chief Supt. Debold Sinas.
Reluya’s husband Ricardo Jr., a 52-year-old barangay chairman and president of the local Association of Barangay Captains, municipal local economic promotions officer Ricky Monterona, 46; and driver Allan Bayot, 52, died on the spot from multiple gunshot wounds.
Sinas said that the mayor named two most probable suspects in the deadly ambush: her political rival Ruben Feliciano and Niel Enriquez.
The mayor said that Feliciano has been threatening them on his Facebook accounts and in his interviews with newspaper and radio reporters in the locality.
Reluya said Feliciano is an owner of a construction firm building the San Fernando Port, which is the subject of a dispute between him and the municipal hall. She said the project started without any municipal building permit.
Sinas said officials of a Special Investigation Task Group he created to investigate the attack and hunt for the killers will interview Feliciano and Enriquez to get their side.
The victims were in a Toyota Hi-Ace van on their way to Cebu City when ambushed by at least three suspects riding a Toyota Innova car in Bgy. Linao, Talisay City around 5:35 p.m. on Tuesday.
Witnesses said the suspects, who were armed with light weapons, immediately fled after the shooting.
Policemen who rushed to the scene immediately brought the wounded mayor and the two other survivors to the nearest hospital for treatment.
Recovered at the scene of the shooting were 73 spent cartridges, three firearms composed of a Colt Mark IV cal. .45 pistol, a cal. 40 Para-Ordnance P16 pistol, and an Armscor cal. .45 pistol, and two extra magazines inside the victim’s vehicle.
The slain victims were subjected to a paraffin test after the two other survivors said they were able to exchange fire with their attackers.
“We have flashed an alarm for the interception of a white Toyota Innova with bullet holes since according to the security men of the mayor, they were able to return fire,” Sinas said.
PALACE DEPLORES RELUYA AMBUSH
Malacañang yesterday denounced the ambush of the Cebu town mayor as it vowed to apply the full force of the law on candidates using illegal means to win the elections.
“We deplore the ambush of San Fernando, Cebu Mayor Lakambini Reluya and pray for her speedy recovery,” Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
During election period, Panelo said “political rivalry is fever pitch resulting in the upsurge of election-related violence.“
“This unfortunate and standard norm cannot continue and the culture of violence that has characterized the electoral process will have to end,” Panelo said.
Two weeks to solve the case
The Philippine National Police also condemned the ambush in Talisay City which killed the husband of Mayor Reluya and two others.
“The PNP condemns the violent attack on Mayor Reluya. I extend my deepest sympathy to Mayor Reluya for the unfortunate incident that claimed the life of her husband Ricardo Jr., and companions Allan Bayot, and Ricky Monterona,” said PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde.
Albayalde instructed Sinas to provide round the clock security to the mayor and to Perez and Jefer while they undergo treatment at a local hospital.
The PNP chief gave the provincial police director and the chief of police in Talisay two weeks to solve the case.
With Efren Montano and Zaida delos Reyes