Special police team to probe Cebu town mayor slay

CEBU CITY — The director of the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) said they are now looking at all possible angles in the killing of Ronda Mayor Mariano Blanco III on Wednesday morning and his alleged involvement in drugs.

Senior Supt. Manuel Abrugena said he has directed Provincial Investigation and Detection Management Branch chief, Supt. Janeth Rafter, and Ronda police chief Senior Insp. JR Palcon to immediately create a special investigation task group for the case.

Abrugena also assured that there is no cause for alarm in Cebu province as the incident was an isolated case.

Blanco was murdered inside his office at the Ronda municipal hall.

The mayor was sleeping at about 1:30 a.m. when armed men barged into his office and shot him, reports reaching the CPPO said.

Blanco has been reportedly staying and sleeping at the municipal hall of Ronda, some 81.5 km. southwest of Cebu City, after he was named by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 as among government officials involved in illegal drug activities.

Based on the accounts of the two watchmen detailed at the municipal hall, a white van arrived and four Tagalog-speaking armed men wearing only slippers got off the vehicle and proceeded to the Mayor’s Office, from where several bursts of gunfire were later heard.

Blanco had no police security as he was divested of supervisory powers over the police due to his alleged links with the drug trade.

“When the President announced that this person (Blanco) is involved in illegal drugs, he was stripped of his operational and administrative control over the police, just like another mayor in Cebu province,” Abrugena said, referring to Daanbantayan, Cebu Mayor Vicente Loot.

Loot was also among the narco-politicians named by the President.

Abrugena said they are also looking into the possible lapses committed by Ronda police members, who were unable to respond to the incident on time.

In February, Ronda Vice Mayor Jonnah John Ungab, who was Blanco’s nephew, was likewise killed outside the Cebu City Hall of Justice after attending a court hearing.

Ungab was the legal counsel of self-confessed drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr.

Blanco joined politics in 1995 as municipal councilor and became a mayor in 1998. Due to term limits, he ran for vice mayor in 2007 and won. He was then reelected mayor in 2010, 2013, and 2016.

Governor Hilario Davide III, meanwhile, condemned in strongest terms the assassination of Blanco, who was his ally in the Liberal Party.

Davide said he is very much concerned as this is the first time in the history of Cebu province that a mayor and vice mayor of the same town had been brutally killed.

He said he asked Abrugena to fast-track the investigation of the case and to regularly give him updates. Luel Galarpe/PNA-northboundasia.com