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Dumaguete City, PhilippinesThursday, January 24, 2013
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Lady mayor murdered

MANILA – A mayor of a remote Philippine town was shot dead in a Manila hotel car park, authorities said yesterday, in one of the first salvos of the country's traditionally bloody election campaign season.

Political rivalry is strongly suspected as the motive of the attack on Tuesday night that killed Erlinda Domingo and wounded her bodyguard, Commission on Election spokesman James Jimenez told AFP.

"Police are looking at it as election-related. Remember we are already in the campaign period. At the turn of the year everyone was already on edge," Jimenez said.

Tuesday's attack came amid mounting calls to impose stricter gun control laws in a high-crime country where politicians employ private armies and hundreds of thousands of unlicensed firearms are on the streets.

Violence often erupts ahead of elections, when politicians seek to eliminate or intimidate their opponents.

The most infamous case occurred in 2009, when 58 people in the southern Philippines were massacred as a powerful political clan allegedly sought to stamp out a rival's challenge for a provincial governor's post.

With politicians gearing up to contest thousands of local and national positions during mid-term elections in May, authorities imposed a nationwide gun ban on January 13, meant to stop firearms from being carried in public.

Domingo, the slain mayor, was standing to retain her post as mayor of Maconacon, a northern town about 340 kilometers from the nation's capital, according to election commission spokesman Jimenez.

The town has a history of political violence.

Domingo, a member of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, had been elected vice mayor in 2007 but she assumed the mayoral post in 2009 after the incumbent was killed in another ambush in 2009.

Spokesmen for the opposition party could not be reached for comment by AFP on Wednesday but another local politician said Domingo was a 52-year-old mother of two children.

Senior Superintendent Richard Albano, police chief of the Manila district where the shooting occurred, said a suspect was arrested shortly after the attack on the mayor, who had just checked into the hotel.

Police investigators detained two other people overnight, according to local media.*AFP

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Lady mayor murdered