A policeman and a police asset were killed by about six suspected members of the New People's Army hit squad in front of the public market in Barangay Balintawak, Escalante City, at about 6:35 last night.
Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, Negros Occidental OIC police director, said PO1 Bejein Tanguan and Joseph Lutrago were on board a motorcycle when they were shot dead.
Tanguan was able to fire back, hitting one of the suspects who was brought by his comrades on board a tricycle to a still unknown location, Guara said. Pursuit operations were ongoing as of press time.
Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. last night condemned the killing. Lutrago was a supporter of mayoral candidate Santiago Barcelona and Marañon of the United Negros Alliance.
His brother, Armando Martinez Lutrago , a former member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, was also gunned down by unidentified armed men in Barangay Libertad, Escalante, on Dec. 3, 2011.
Escalante City has been listed by the PNP as a 2013 election hotspot.
In January, Guara had said that Escalante falls under Category 1, where employment of private armed groups by candidates and intense political rivalry are likely to occur.
The police had recorded a series of extrajudicial killings in Escalante City from 2007 to 2010, majority of which took place during election periods, and responsibility for many had been claimed by the NPA.
Escalante Mayor Melecio Yap Jr. was stripped of his supervisory power over the local police by the National Police Commission in 2011, following allegations that he was sympathetic to the NPA, and the occurrence of alleged extrajudicial and unsolved killings in Escalante.
The mayor has vehemently denied the allegations.
Yap also stressed that the killing last night was not politically motivated, and was insurgency related, which should not be linked to him.
Yap said he was at a rally of the Nationalist People's Coalition in Barangay Old Poblacion about six kilometers away from the crime scene, that ended at 5:30 p.m. yesterday.
Present at the rally were NPC gubernatorial bet Genaro Alvarez Jr., his runningmate Eugenio “Bong” Lacson, and Rep. Julio Ledesma IV (Neg. Occ., 1 st District), he said.*CPG