Killing of Sarangani mayor politically motivated?

Mayor Yabes “was really the target of the attack. He was driving some visitors from Hawaii and they were not hit,” he said.Valeriano recalled that during the fiesta in May, police arrested Belino Sumadang who claimed to have been hired to kill Yabes by a certain Ambong for P200,000.

Sumadang, who was arrested at the municipal gym where the mayor was then officiating at an affair, identified Maitum Vice Mayor Felix Reganit as the alleged mastermind behind the assassination plot.  Reganit, however, vehemently denied the accusation.  

“We’re looking at that incident but could not say for now if that was really the motive. Also, we have not identified the perpetrators,” Valeriano said.

Valeriano said the town’s police force could be relieved from their posts if proven they have been negligent in their jobs.

Yabes, 64, was serving his last term as town mayor and was with a bodyguard when shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen.

The bodyguard, who was seating next to the victim, was able to fire back but missed any of them.

Police and military dragnets failed to net the suspects.

“This is shocking. We grieve the loss of our mayor,” said Elizabeth Palma Gil, the town’s information officer.

Palma Gil said Mayor Yabes was driving his relatives from Hawaii on board his Willys jeep, when the gunmen shot him from about a meter away. The shot on his nape was fatal.

Yabes was largely credited for turning the erstwhile obscure town of Maitum into one of the most well-known municipalities in Region 12 (Southwestern Mindanao).

Maitum, some 107 kilometers west from this city, is popular for its anthropomorphic jars which were found in various caves there, and believed to be dating back to 3,000 years ago.

The town in the last few years has also become a favorite weekend destination because of its river-tubing adventure.

Under his term, the town reaped so many awards.

In 2003, Maitum won the National Award for Most Child-Friendly Municipality. Maitum also gained the 2005 award from Gawad Galing Pook Foundation for promoting child rights.

Its Pangi River was adjudged also in 2003 as one of the cleanest rivers in the country by the Gawad Pangulo sa Kapaligiran, where the river-tubing adventure traverses.

Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez, an ally of the victim, condemned the incident and said the province lost one of its “outstanding” political leaders. (MindaNews)