Mayor of Town in Southern Philippines Shot Dead

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Cotabato, Philippines
2021-01-11
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Mayor of Town in Southern Philippines Shot Dead Candles are lit near the vehicle of Libungan town Mayor Christopher Cuan, who was killed in an ambush on Jan. 11 2021, in Cotabato, Philippines.
[Mark Navales/BenarNews]

A town mayor in the southern Philippines was gunned down with his driver in a roadside attack on Monday, the police said.

President Rodrigo Duterte had said that Christopher Cuan, mayor of Libungan town in North Cotabato province, was on of a list of politicians and officials allegedly tied to drug traffickers.

Cuan, 46, was attacked near his residence while heading out to inspect a construction site. The police identified the other person slain as Edwin Navarro Ihao, 36, Cuan’s driver.

“The victims sustained wounds in different parts of their body that resulted in their instantaneous death,” said local police investigator Capt. Jennefer Amotan, in her incident report.

“The suspects immediately left the crime scene after the incident.”

Amotan said that an assault rifle and a 0.45 caliber pistol were used in the attack, which, according to witnesses, was carried out by four men in a sport utility vehicle who were tailing the victims.

Cuan had survived an assassination attempt in January 2019. He had been inside town hall when an unidentified gunman opened fire but missed, police had said.

A quick investigation must be conducted into Cuan’s killing, said Emmylou Talino Mendoza, North Cotabato's vice-governor. 

“I condemn in the strongest term the killing today of Mayor Amping Cuan of Libungan,” Mendoza said in a statement, using Cuan’s nickname.

“His demise not only orphaned his family but his constituents who looked up to him for his leadership. We call for a speedy and thorough investigation to attain justice for the beloved mayor. Our sympathies to his family, friends, and relatives. We mourn his passing.”

Duterte had previously listed Cuan as a “narcopolitician.”

Shortly after Duterte won the presidential election in 2016, police raided Cuan’s properties but didn’t find illegal drugs. Duterte denied he had anything to do with the raid but, a year later, stripped Cuan and other local officials of the power to oversee the police force to avoid potential corruption.

Cuan is the 25th politician accused of being a “narcopolitician” to be killed.

In December, Caesar Perez, the mayor of Los Baños town, which is to the south of Manila, was felled by an assassin’s bullet. Duterte had also accused Perez of being a “narcopolitician.”

The Philippine president has never divulged how he obtained the list of politicians and officials with drug ties.

He has, however, waved the purported list at public speeches, saying it is proof about his seriousness in his campaign to rid the Philippines of illegal drugs.

He subsequently conceded that he may not be able to meet his campaign promise of eradicating the narcotics trade by the time he steps down in 2022.

The police last year said that nearly 8,000 suspected drug addicts and dealers had been killed since Duterte launched the drug war. Rights groups and activists however say that many more could have been killed.

Last month, the International Criminal Court said that there was reason to believe that “crimes against humanity” had occurred in the Philippines, and that a final decision on whether to prosecute Duterte would be made this year.

Duterte faces two murder complaints before the ICC, filed by relatives of some of those killed, and by a former police officer and a self-styled assassin who accused Duterte of ordering the deaths of opponents and criminals when he was mayor of Davao city.

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