PUERTO PRINCESA CITY — An incumbent ex-officio board member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, who is also running for mayor in the southern Palawan town of Bataraza, and his police escorts were waylaid Wednesday afternoon by unidentified armed men.

Board Member Abraham Ibba, incumbent ex-officio member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan due to his presidency of the Palawan Provincial Association of Barangay Chairmen Federation (PPABCF), survived the attack but his driver and two escorts were seriously wounded.

The ambush was staged at the National Highway, Barangay Tarusan, Bataraza in the southern part of the province around 3:00 p.m., Ibba himself confirmed to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Ibba said he was able to escape the ambush that was staged by unidentified armed men, but his driver and two of his police security were .

He identified them as SPO3 Erwin Baldemosa and SPO2 Ronald Castro, and his driver alias “Bunny,” who was hit by a bullet in the face.

Ibba narrated that they were on their way back to the center of the town from Tarusan when the ambush was staged by unidentified gunmen.

“Ako ang punterya ng grupo na ’yon, sinalubong kami at pinaulanan ng bala. Mga de kalibre ang gamit, ini-snipe ako, ang driver ko ang tinamaan (I am the target of that group, they directly targeted us and rained us with bullets. They’re using high-powered guns, they were sniping me but it was my driver, who got hit),” the board member said.

Asked if he believed that the ambush was election-related, Ibba replied: ”Hindi ko pa matiyak kung may koneksyon ito sa eleksyon pero malalaman din natin iyan (I cannot say for sure if this is related to the election, but we will find out).”

Ibba narrated further that his police escorts ran out of bullets because the firefight lasted for about 15 minutes.

After the clearing operation was conducted, he said they discovered the hiding place of the unidentified armed men that was just along the National Highway in Tarusan, where the ambush was staged.

His police escorts reportedly had a difficult time retaliating with gun shots because there were residential homes nearby and they might hit any of them.

The three, who were wounded were rushed to the Southern Palawan Provincial Hospital (SPPH) in the town of Brooke’s Point.

Palawan Police Director Senior Supt. Benjamin Acorda Jr. told the PNA that they had added extra police force in the area, including elements of the Philippine Marines from the 12th Marine Battalion Landing Team.

Asked if there was possibility the communist-terrorist group New People’s Army (NPA) was behind the ambush, the police director said investigations are still being conducted to determine the identities of the armed men.

If it is proven that the incident was due to the coming election since Ibba is running again for mayor of Bataraza, he said he will recommend to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to declare the town as an “election hotspot area.” PNA