MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Gunmen in military uniforms fatally shot a governor and five civilians on Saturday while the provincial leader was meeting villagers at his home in the central Philippines, in the latest brazen assault on local politicians in the country, police said.
At least six men armed with assault rifles and wearing military-style camouflage and bullet-proof vests alighted from three SUVs and opened fire on Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo, hitting him and at least five other people in front of his home in Pamplona town. The province has a history of violent political rivalries.
Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, the wife of the slain governor, said in a Facebook video that the five villagers also died.
She demanded justice and said her husband “did not deserve that kind of death. He was serving constituents on a Saturday along with his department heads.”
A total of 10 suspects were seen fleeing the scene and later abandoned the SUVs, police said. Police set up security checkpoints and launched a province-wide search for the suspects.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. condemned the mid-morning attack, which took place as impoverished villagers gathered in front of Degamo’s house to seek medical and other aid.
“My government will not rest until we have brought the perpetrators of this dastardly and heinous crime to justice,” Marcos said in a statement.
Marcos said without elaborating that authorities had gathered “much information and now have a clear direction on how to proceed to bring to justice those behind this killing.” He addressed the mastermind and the killers, saying, “We will find you. If you surrender now it will be your best option.”
Degamo’s killing underscores that even local politicians are not immune from high-profile gun violence that has persisted despite the government’s pledge to combat it.
Last month, Gov. Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr. of southern Lanao del Sur province was wounded and four of his bodyguards killed in an attack on their convoy. Police said they killed one of the suspects in a clash.
In a separate recent attack, unidentified men reportedly wearing police uniforms fired at the van of northern Aparri town Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda, killing him and five companions in northern Nueva Vizcaya province. The suspects remain at large.
Crimes, decades-long Muslim and communist rebellions, and other security concerns are some of the major problems inherited by Marcos, who took office in June last year.