Two mayors have been murdered this week in the Philippines. One shot dead by a sniper at a flag raising ceremony, the other killed in his car by gunmen on a motorcycle.
Twelve elected officials are among the thousands of people killed since President Roderigo Duterte unleashed his war on drugs following his election two years ago.
The most recent is Ferdinand Bote, the Mayor of General Tinio, a provincial capital about 50 miles north of Manila. The town’s police chief said that the mayor had just climbed into the back of his tinted Toyota 4Runner when gunmen on motorcycles shot him repeatedly. At least 18 shell casings were recovered at the scene.
Mayor Bote was not on President Duterte’s list of 150 officials suspected of involvement in the drug trade, but the other mayor murdered this week was among the most controversial in the Philippines.
Two years ago, Antonio Halili ordered drug suspects paraded through the streets of Tanauan, a small city about 50 miles south of Manila. The men wore placards that read, “I’m a pusher, don’t emulate me.”
At the time, the so-called “walk of shame” was seen as evidence of grass roots support for President Duterte’s drug war. Later, however, Mayor Halili was himself linked to drugs, charges he strenuously denied.
Last Sunday, as the mayor led about 300 employees in the national anthem at a flag raising ceremony, a single shot rang out. Police said later that the bullet was fired from about 500 feet away – the act of a trained sniper. It hit a cellphone in the mayor’s coat pocket, then penetrated his chest.
President Duterte said, “I suspect it’s related to drugs. Just a suspicion.”