STRAFING IN DUMANJUG
Gunmen fire at parked SUV; Davide deplores violent ‘attempt on the lives’ of LP candidates
Gunmen strafed and lobbed a grenade at the parked vehicle of a Liberal Party (LP) candidate for vice mayor in Dumanjug town in southwest Cebu yesterday.
No one was injured and the grenade did not explode.
But the black Mitsubishi Pajero of LP vice mayoral candidate Rainero “Rene” Asentista was riddled with bullets.
Gov. Hilario Davide III, who is also LP chairman for Cebu province, denounced the violence and called on everybody to “remain calm and observe the rule of law.”
The attack occurred about 30 minutes after incumbent Vice Mayor Efren Guntrano “Gungun” Gica left the area.
“It is very unfortunate that there was an attempt on the lives of Vice Mayor Gica and his group while doing community visits,” said Governor Davide in a statement sent to the media.
Gica, who is running for Dumanjug mayor against reelectionist Mayor Nelson Garcia of One Cebu, said he could have been the target.
Police said this was possible while Garcia laughed it off as a “political gimmick.”
Gica and Asentista , both LP bets, were in the area to meet with supporters.
Asentista and two candidates for municipal councilor were busy shaking hands with residents of barangay Masa at a basketball court when the strafing happened at about 1:30 p.m. yesterday.
Police said the gunmen may not have known that no one was inside the vehicle because its windows are tinted.
As of 6 p.m. last night, Dumanjug police arrested one man, who allegedly acted as lookout for seven gunmen. Five suspects have been identified, police said.
Governor Davide said he has asked the police to conduct “an immediate and exhaustive investigation.”
“We shall inform the public once the report is ready and shall do what is right and proper with firm dispatch to bring the perpetrators to answer for what they have done,” he added.
Dumanjug, about two hours by car from Cebu City, was in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) watchlist in 2013.
“I think it will be included in the list for 2016 again. Even this early, something happened already. But as for now, we can’t tell yet whether it really is political,” said Provincial Board Member Christopher Baricuatro.
Dumanjug Police Chief Sr Insp. Arvi Arbuis said he would recommend that Dumanjug be listed as an election hot spot for next year.
Since the town has only 19 policemen, he said he will ask for additional troops from the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) and Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB).
Arbuis said he sent a team to barangay Masa, about 20 kilometers from the town proper, after receiving a call at 1:30 p.m.
Someone texted the police station at 1:36 pm. saying “Sir, tabangi mi diri sa barangay Masa kay gi-massacre me (Sir, help us here in barangay Masa because we are being massacred).”
Asentista went to the police station past 5 p.m. to report the strafing of his vehicle. Based on the Dumanjug police blotter, no one was inside the vehicle at the time of the attack.
A photo of the vehicle was posted on Gica’s Facebook page showing damage at the lower portion of the Pajero’s right front door.
Police recovered an apple grenade that did not explode, 6 empty shells from Armalite rifle, two empty shells from caliber .45 pistol, and empty shell from 40mm gun.
Arbuis said they have not discounted the possibility that Gica was the target of the attack.
Mayor Garcia, however, laughed off the incident and called it an “Ambush-me” operation.
“It was a political gimmick staged by Gica just to gain sympathy from the people,” Garcia said over radio dyLA.
He said a policeman who served as Gica’s bodyguard staged the attack.
“Naa may naka-witness, ang iyang police na-transfer naman unta na diri sa Dumanjug. Nahibulong bitaw ko ako naman nang gipa-relieve, maoy nagpabuto og Armalite didto sa bukid daghan nakakita,” Garcia said. (Many saw this policeman fire his Armalite rifle. I was surprised because I had him relieved of his duties.)
Sr. Insp. Arbuis, however, said he did not get a report about the policeman’s involvement. He said the policeman is now assigned with the Provincial Police Safety Company (PPSC) based in another town.
Garcia also laughed off reports that the gunmen used an M79 or rifle grenade.
“If the vehicle was hit by a M79 rifle grenade, it would no longer run and would have exploded. But it was just dented,” Garcia said.
NOT HIS STYLE
Asked what he would say if accusations pointed to him as the mastermind, Garcia said it’s not his style.
“We didn’t do anything when my nephew was shot five years ago. Secondly, if Gica was the target, why wasn’t his vehicle hit? Why was it the vehicle of his running mate instead? And no one was even hurt,” he added.
Vice Mayor Gica, in a separate interview, said the LP group went to barangay Masa in a convoy including four vehicles, some motorcyles and a dump truck carrying some supporters.
He left ahead while Asentista, two candidates for municipal councilors and several supporters were still in the basketball court.
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