MANILA, Philippines – Another Philippine mayor was shot and killed Tuesday by an unidentified man in a road attack a day after a city mayor was gunned down in brazen back-to-back killings that prompted an opposition senator to call the country the "murder capital of Asia."
Mayor Ferdinand Bote of northern General Tinio town was leaving a government compound on board an SUV in northern Nueva Ecija province when a motorcycle-riding man shot him repeatedly with a pistol. The gunman escaped, police said.
On Monday, Mayor Antonio Halili was shot in the heart and killed while singing the national anthem with hundreds of employees in a flag-raising ceremony in his city of Tanauan, south of Manila. Videos taken by witnesses of the moment when an apparent single rifle shot felled the 72-year-old mayor and sparked chaos have gone viral online and sparked new alarm.
Opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV blamed the killings on a "culture of violence" under President Rodrigo Duterte, whom he has criticized for a brutal anti-drug crackdown that has left thousands of mostly poor suspects dead in the last two years.
The Roman Catholic church has also raised alarm over the killings of three priests in recent months, including one who was shot in an altar while preparing to celebrate Mass in a northern village last month. At least four suspects are in police custody.
"No one is safe now," Trillanes said in a statement. "For someone who promised to restore peace and order in our country during the campaign, it is ironic for a lot of people that Duterte has actually turned the Philippines into the murder capital of Asia."
When he rose to power in 2016, the brash-talking Duterte expanded nationwide a deadly campaign against illegal drugs that he enforced as a longtime mayor of southern Davao city. Police say the current campaign has left more than 4,200 suspects dead in what they say were clashes with law enforcers, although human rights groups have blamed them for extrajudicial killings.
Duterte and the police deny a policy of condoning illegal killings and cite the deaths of many policemen in clashes as proof of the danger posed by drug suspects. But he has often threatened drug suspects with death and promised he would never allow policemen to rot in jail for doing their work in speeches critics say have helped promote impunity and foster abuses.
Duterte said without elaborating Monday that Halili's killing may have been linked to illegal drugs. At least three mayors accused by his administration of involvement in the drug trade had been killed in raids by or clashes with the police.
Halili, who drew attention two years ago when he paraded drug suspects in a shame campaign, had strongly denied any links with illegal drug. Police said Tuesday the killer used a rifle and took position on a grassy hill about 160 meters (525 feet) from where Halili stood in a well-planned attack.
Bote, 57, was not in any list of drug suspects, according to the government's main anti-drug agency. Police did not immediately report any further details on his killing.
"We assure everyone that we would discharge the state obligation for every murder," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said. "We will spare no effort in getting to the bottom of this latest violent crime."