Calbayog City Mayor Ronald Aquino was shot at least 21 times, his eldest son Mark said Thursday, with witnesses saying seven gunmen shot repeatedly at the mayor’s van to make sure he was dead.
Speaking to ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo, the younger Aquino confirmed his father was on his way to his son’s birthday celebration when he was slain by law enforcers with high-powered firearms in Barangay Lonoy last Monday.
A Philippine National Police report earlier said the assailants were members of the Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group, and Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit.
In a related development, a political ally of Aquino believes the mayor was killed by rogue members of the Philippine National Police.
“There are pieces of evidence, there are facts that can’t be denied. So sad to note that the father of the city of Calbayog was slain or murdered by rogue elements of the Philippine National Police,” Samar 1st District Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento told ANC.
He also maintained the incident was an ambush. The PNP initially claimed it was a shootout that began after Aquino’s group fired at the tailing police vehicle.
“I’m hoping that justice will be given to him. Again, this is a well-planned thing. For me, this is still an ambush,” Sarmiento said.
According to Aquino’s son, a witness revealed that his father’s van was rammed from behind. Seven assailants from two vehicles – a Hilux and an Everest – then disembarked and strafed the van.
Aquino said locals had spotted one of the vehicles used by the gunmen going back and forth in the area several times at least a week before the shooting.
He said on the day of the shooting, one of the vehicles was staying on one end of the bridge while another group was waiting on the other end.
Aquino said it was impossible for his father’s security detail to have shot at the law enforcers since they were the first to be shot while inside the vehicle.
He said it was his father who shot at the assailants, according to his personal aide who was also inside the van and survived the incident.
He said that after the shooting, one of the assailants then looked inside the van and said: “Okay na, patay na.”
Police have formed a special investigation task group to probe the incident that left six people dead, including Aquino.
The other fatalities were identified as Aquino’s close-in security detail Police Senior Sgt. Rodio Sario; his driver Dennis Abayon; Police Capt. Joselito Tabada; Police Senior Sgt. Romeo Laoyon; and Clint John Paul Yauder, a civilian.
Rep. Sarmiento has filed a resolution urging the committee on public order and safety in the House of Representatives to investigate the incident.
“In this case, how can people not judge what happened to our mayor? They were not in proper uniform. They were not in proper vehicles. Why do you have to clandestine (sic) your vehicles? Why do you have to wear bonnets, in this case? Why do you have to bring firearms, high-powered firearms at that, if the intention is just to inspect?” he said.
Sarmiento also bared the incident was politically motivated.
“The people in Calbayog know the reason behind this. This is about politics. There are rogue elements [of PNP] that allowed themselves to be used by politicians,” he said.
However, he refused to disclose the name of the person who could have ordered the attack.
The Philippine National Police on Thursday said Aquino was not the target of a police operation on Monday, saying the cops who allegedly shot him were in Calbayog City for a separate operation.
“They were there to conduct Red Teaming inspection on all police stations, incognito in fact, because they are actually monitoring performance of our police officers against illegal drugs, terrorism and some anti-crime operations,” PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said in an ANC interview.