AUTHORITIES are looking into politics and illegal logging as possible motives behind the ambush-slay of a town mayor in Compostela Valley Wednesday morning.
Laak Mayor Reynaldo Navarro, 62, on board a white Montero Sport with plate number SHE-663, was on his way to Tagum City when six armed men riding in two motorcycles attacked him upon reaching Km. 9 at Purok 12 in Barangay Sigayen in Asuncion town in Davao del Norte around 8:20 a.m.
Two of the attackers were also killed when Navarro's security escorts retaliated.
Five were also wounded in the incident, including the mayor's driver, identified as Timitilito Pacano; his security escorts Police Officer 3 (PO3) Glen Ochoco and PO1 Rey Leones of the Laak Municipal Police Station; and two civilians identified as Crispolo Patajo Sr. and Paquito Tonocante.
The gun battle lasted for 20 minutes. Authorities recovered from the crime scene M16 and M4 rifles.
"We could not yet conclude anything as of this moment. But we will look into all the possible angles of his death (including politics and illegal logging activities in Laak). Let the authorities conduct further investigation," said Compostela Valley Provincial Police Office (CVPPO) Director Abraham Rojas.
Citing an initial investigation conducted by Asuncion police, Rojas said Navarro was declared dead on arrival at Tagum Doctors Hospital.
"Two of the six attackers were also killed during the encounter after his [Navarro] security escorts retaliated," he said.
Rojas said the mayor had been receiving several threats through text messages and phone calls.
Navarro, former vice governor of Compostela Valley, is serving his last term as Laak mayor.
Members of the Asuncion Municipal Police Station and Laak Municipal Police Station with troops from the Army's 60th and 55th Infantry Battalion were immediately deployed to conduct further investigation, pursuit operation, and random checkpoint in the area.
Newly-installed PRO-Davao Director Wendy Garcia Rosario, meanwhile, said he will visit the area and meet with the provincial police personnel in relation to the incident.
In a separate interview, Army's 10th Infantry Division spokesperson Captain Ernest Carolina could not confirm those behind the ambush, though early this month, the mayor was tagged as one of the alleged "Big 4 Logging Lords" in Compostela Valley.
The accusation was made after the rebels' captured Sergeant Jeric Bucio Curay of the 72nd Infantry Battalion last month. The NPA's Comval-North Davao South Agusan Sub-Regional Command earlier warned Navarro to submit to its revolutionary government's total log ban policy.
Navarro, however, denied any involvement in illegal logging activities.
In an earlier interview with the mayor, he said he really had no idea on the accusations of the NPA. He was also puzzled as to why the communist group keeps on tagging him as one of the Big 4.
"Bakit naman ako palagi nila sinisisi sa mga illegal logging? At bakit ako lang ang pinag-iinitan? Bakit ang Laak lang? Ang kahoy na pinuputol ay nanggagaling sa bundok. Wala dito sa Poblacion at hindi naman ako, kundi sila ang may control sa kabundukan," Navarro said in a text message to Sun.Star Davao dated May 26.
"Ang hiling ko lang sa kanila hulihin nila ang mga tao at kagamitan sa paglogging, tingnan nila kung nakikialam nga ba ako sa gawain nila ng sa gayon ay mapatunayan nila kung sangkot nga ako sa illegal na nangangahoy, na kapag natatanong ay nagsasabi na may basbas daw ng NPA ang kanilang operasyon," Navarro added.
But NPA's Comval-North Davao spokesperson Aris Francisco said Navarro is misrepresenting himself when he denied being part of the "Big 4 Logging Lords."
He added that a raw footage taken by their comrades showed rampant logging in several interior roads in villages Ampawid and Andap in Laak.
"This is a proof that actual logging is taking place in Laak. Navarro attempted to absolve himself by saying that Laak is merely a transit point of trucks coming from the boundary of Agusan del Sur, site of logging operations," Francisco said.