Mayor, 3 others killed at airport

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Friday, December 20, 2013

MANILA (Updated) -- A mayor from Zamboanga del Sur in southern Philippines, his wife and two others were fatally shot in a daring attack at a Manila airport terminal that also wounded four other people.

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Jose Angel Honrado said men onboard a motorcycle fired at Labangan Mayor Ukol Talumpa and his wife, as they stepped out of Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Friday.

Talumpa had arrived from Zamboanga del Sur, the southern province where Labangan is located.

Zamboanga mayor shot dead
ZAMBOANGA. In this photo, Labangan Mayor Ukol Talumpa addresses a crowd of supporters during a covenant signing before the May 2013 polls. He was shot dead Friday, December 20, at the NAIA airport terminal. (Photo courtesy of Zamboanga del Sur Provincial Government)

Honrado said that Talumpa and the other victims were shot at the loading bay of the Terminal 3 while fixing their luggage.

The NAIA Terminal 3 handles international and domestic flights, and is supposed to be a relatively well-guarded facility. No closed circuit television cameras, however, were installed at the ambush site.

Honrado said the couple was declared dead on arrival at a nearby air base hospital along with two others, including an 18-month-old boy. It was not immediately clear if the two other victims were related to the mayor.

Local radio reports said, however, that the man was a nephew of the mayor, and the boy was a bystander with no relation to Talumpa.

At least five other people were also wounded, including a niece of the mayor and a three-year-old girl who sustained a head wound, hospital authorities said.

An uncle of the dead boy, Felipe Lirasan, told dzMM radio that the child's family was staying at his home for Christmas. "Then this happened," he said, his voice breaking. "There is nothing that we can do."

There was no word on a possible motive, but violent attacks linked to political rivalries, family feuds and business disputes are common in the country, and have left hundreds of people dead over the years. Talumpa himself had survived at least two earlier assassination attempts. The latest was in September 2012 when two men riding in a motorcycle lobbed a grenade from their residence in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur.

Talumpa, the former vice mayor of Labangan, was elected as mayor last May, defeating then Mayor Wilson Nandang, who then filed an election protest with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The Comelec identified Labangan last May polls as one of the election hotspots in Zamboanga del Sur.

Honrado said that investigators were trying to determine how many attackers were involved in the shooting Friday, because witnesses saw only one gunman, who sped away on a waiting motorcycle that was driven by another man.

An airport car rental dispatcher said one of the two men on the motorcycle was wearing a cap and what appeared to be a police uniform.

"When shots rang out, the passengers all rushed inside the terminal," said the dispatcher, who spoke to a local radio station but didn't give his name.

He said the man wearing the police uniform almost fell off the motorcycle as they sped away. They were chased by airport authorities in cars, but the pair wove their way through the stalled vehicles and escaped, he said.

Another witness, Fernand Imperial, posted two amateur videos on Instagram after the assault on Friday noon.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) officer-in-charge Medardo de Lemos to probe the killing.

“I understand that was the third attempt on the life of the mayor and this time, the culprits succeeded and it’s extremely deplorable that even the wife, grandson and a staff were also killed,” she said in a text message.

The Zamboanga del Sur Provincial Government condemned the incident, saying the death of Talumpa is a great loss for the municipality of Labangan.

Chief inspector Florencio Soriano of the Pasay City Police, meanwhile, said airport security officials received a call coming from the terminal personnel before lunch time and they were informed about the shooting incident.

The National Capital Region Police Office Chief Superintendent Carmelo Valmoria said while they have started the investigation, they have also increased the number of police officers deployed within and outside the airport.

Philippine airports are usually packed with passengers and well-wishers during the Christmas season. (AP/John Carlo Cahinhinan/Bong Garcia/Virgil B. Lopez/Ariel B. Catubig/Sunnex)

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