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Palace official escapes ambush, tags Cagayan governor

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Secretary Manuel Mamba and his 13 companions on Monday afternoon escaped unharmed after Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio, armed with an AK-47 rifle, allegedly fired at their convoy in Alcala town in Cagayan province.

No one was hurt in the attack on the chief of President Aquino’s legislative liaison office as he was checking on the voting in the province where his brother William Mamba was running against the reelectionist Antonio.

“This is impunity. He’s the governor. Why would he do that? He thinks he owns the whole of Cagayan,” Mamba said.

The Philippine National Police said at least five people were killed and 16 others wounded in scattered fire fights, but the balloting on Monday was generally peaceful.

“There were some pockets of violence, mostly between opposing political supporters, reported in some parts of the country. But these were not enough to dampen the spirit of the electorate to exercise their right to elect our government leaders,” PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima said.

Grenade explosions occurred in several areas in Mindanao, including Maguindanao, the site of the country’s worst election killings that claimed the lives of 58 people in 2009.

“Some candidates apparently wanted to scare the voters and prevent them from going to the polling precincts,” said Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson, Maguindanao police chief.

Mamba said his convoy of four vehicles was cruising along Maharlika Highway in Alcala at past 2 p.m. when Antonio, standing at a waiting shed in front of the town hall, fired at the fourth vehicle, a bulletproof Ford Expedition. One bullet penetrated the car, but the driver and its two passengers, including a policeman, were unhurt. Mamba was in the first vehicle.

“I saw him brandishing an AK-47. After we had passed by him, I was surprised to hear the sounds ‘pak-pak-pak.’ It turned out he fired at the fourth car, probably thinking I was there,” Mamba  said by phone from a police station in Gattaran town where he reported the shooting.

Probably drunk

Prior to the attack, the secretary, three police escorts and 10 aides stopped by Bay-bayog Elementary School in Alcala to check on the voting there before heading to the town proper.

Mamba said he believed  Antonio was tipped off about their presence in the school, and waited for his convoy. He said residents were familiar with his car, a Toyota Fortuner.

“He was probably drunk. I thought he would just scare us away but then he fired at our convoy,” he said.

William Mamba, a three-time Tuao town mayor, is the Liberal Party’s gubernatorial candidate against the incumbent Antonio of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.

According to Mamba, four mayors and a lawmaker had recently withdrawn their support from Antonio to back his brother’s candidacy. “They’re desperate,” he said.

After the attack, President Aquino phoned Mamba to check on his condition. The police regional director Chief Supt. Rodrigo de Gracia advised Mamba to have the attack recorded on the police blotter in the next town, Gattaran, the secretary said.

Mamba said he would file charges against the governor.

Revilla cries harassment

In Batangas province, gunmen riding in tandem on a motorcycle shot dead Ricardo Reyes, 47, barangay (village) chief of Bilaran, but it was unclear if it was related to the elections.

Gun ban violations resulted in eight arrests in Masbate, four in Camarines Sur and six in Cavite, police authorities said.

In Bacoor City, Cavite, police arrested an agent of the National Bureau of Investigation and five men claiming to be NBI confidential agents following a standoff late on Sunday at the residence of Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. Police said the men did not have authority to operate in the area.

A teary-eyed Revilla told reporters he was being harassed by Cavite policemen and had sought protection from the NBI after he saw armed men  in the area.

Like common criminal

“I’m a senator of the Philippines and we’re being treated like criminals,” said Revilla, whose son Jolo is running for vice governor against Jay Lacson, son of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief.

Chief Supt. Ronaldo Mendoza said charges of illegal possession of firearms would be filed against Honor Santos, Efifanio Baria, Rosauro Estardo, Rizalos Magnaye, Danilo Cruz, and the only NBI agent in the group, Frederick Galvez.

NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas told the Inquirer he had revoked the authority of confidential agents following reports of abuses.—With reports from Nancy Carvajal in Manila; and Maricar Cinco, Delfin Mallari Jr., Mar Arguelles, Shiena Barrameda, Madonna Virola, Juan Escandor Jr., Marrah Lesaba, Jerome Balinton and Aycel Narvaez, Inquirer Southern Luzon

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