ERMITA Barangay Captain Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta is dead. Four men in two motorcycles ambushed him while he was driving his vehicle in Barangay Tayud, Liloan town, firing shots that hit him in the head and the body. He was declared dead in a medical center in Consolacion town at 9 in the evening of November 23.

I don’t personally know Rupinta but his name often cropped up in the news through the years since he headed the vendors organization in Cebu City and went on to become long-time chief of a village that is known for many things, including being a haven of the trading of illegal drugs. Rupinta was known for his eventual plunge into the city’s politics, losing in tries to win a seat in the city council.

Interestingly, his killing came following months of him having been in the headlines mostly related to his politics. On this, two political developments were crucial, Rodrigo Duterte’s assumption to the presidency and Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s win in the mayoral race last year. Duterte later launched a blistering war against illegal drugs while Osmeña went after those allied with the opposition Team Rama.

Early this year, the Office of the Ombudsman placed Rupinta and seven of his councilors under preventive suspension allegedly for failing to cooperate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) during a drug raid late last year. When Rupinta and the barangay councilors initially resisted the suspension and the Office of the President failed to appoint a caretaker, Osmeña moved into the picture and had his appointed initially handle Ermita’s affairs.

Rupinta and the barangay councilors returned from suspension in August, apparently chastened. He vowed to intensify his own war against the illegal drug trade in the village and eventually ran smack into a controversy two months later when his initiative of posting stickers with the words “This is a drug-free home” on houses got criticized by the Commission on Human Rights. By that time, he had claimed that some people linked to the illegal drugs trade had left the village.

Rupinta would later clash with Osmeña on the handling of barangay fees collected from ambulant vendors in an area near the Carbon market that is within Ermita’s jurisdiction. Vendors that Rupinta drove away for refusing to pay the “voluntary” fees were ordered to stay put by the mayor. Osmeña would later ordered the demolition of Ermita’s barangay tanod outposts in the Carbon market complex. This after some Ermita tanods were linked to the death of a person they arrested.

“I don’t trust the guy,” Osmeña said of Rupinta then, describing him as a “classic example of narco-politics” and his tanods of being a threat instead of being a solution to the problem in the area.

Interestingly, Rupinta’s ambush also exposed a few things about him that I didn’t know about, like how far he has gone from being a vendor in the Carbon market. Also, that he has established a residence outside of the city (in Liloan town). Rupinta’s personal life had obviously become colorful in the years that he became a leader, first among the city’s vendors and later in Barangay Ermita.