ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY, Philippines
A councilor of a village in Diplahan town in Zamboanga Sibugay was gunned down by motorcycle-riding gunmen just a day after the top provincial election official said authorities are “closely monitoring the reports of armed goons” arriving in the locality barely two weeks from May 9 elections.
Atty. Ahmad Taib Musa, provincial election supervisor of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), said Crestituto Halop, a kagawad of Barangay Guinoman, was killed by unidentified gunmen while he was standing outside the Barangay Hall at past 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 28.
The killing occurred a day after Musa said, in an interview, that authorities are verifying reports of armed men began arriving in Diplahan.
It is too early to say that the killing of the 67-year-old councilor was election-related, Musa said.
Other motives are possible, he added.
The police, he said, are still investigating the incident.
Police Colonel Albert Larubis, provincial director of Zamboanga Sibugay Police Office, in a separate interview on Thursday, barely two hours before the killing occurred, said “we are checking on the reported presence of armed men” in Diplahan.
Ironically, the town is placed by COMELEC under Green Category, which means the absence of security concern.
He does not rule out the possibility of the eruption of election-related hostilities in a town where the incumbent mayor, Atty. Eric Palma is up for re-election against Orcele Macoto, moneyed but a neophyte in politics.
Larubis said “we are on a lookout of possible scenarios” leading to and during the elections.
Before the killing, there are four municipalities in Zamboanga Sibugay the authorities are watching closely. These areas are the towns of Alicia, Mabuhay, Siay, and Tungawan.
Of these four towns, only Alicia is placed under Orange Category while the remaining three municipalities are Yellow.
The COMELEC has to beef up the presence of security forces when an area is under Orange Category while the areas under Yellow mean that the poll body will closely monitor the conduct of the elections.
All preparations are in place to ensure safe and orderly elections in the province, Larubis said.
This story is supported by Internews under the Internews Philippines Story Grants 2022.