CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 23 December) – An unidentified gunman fired a shot from outside the glass door into the room where the PDP-Laban and Asenso Ozamiz political party were enjoying their Christmas party in Tangub City, Misamis Occidental, wounding two of its prominent candidates Wednesday night.
Police said Jason Almonte, former mayor of Oroquieta City, and Mayor Michael Gutierrez of Lopez Jaena town in Misamis Occidental were rushed to the hospital after sustaining injuries, with Gutierrez in critical condition.
Almonte, who served as mayor of Oroquieta from 2010 to 2019, is a congressional aspirant for the 1st District of Misamis Occidental while Gutierrez is running for vice-governor, both under the PDP-Laban and Asenso Ozamiz political party.
The party was held at the Working Coffee building near the Aria gas station owned by the Oaminal family in Sitio Pulao, Barangay VII in Tangub City at around 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday.
Police investigator Deony Dale Alviar said a lone gunshot was heard while Oaminal and the rest of the PDP-Laban and Asenso Ozamiz party members were enjoying the party.
He said the bullet “hit the frame of the glass door” and splintered.
“A splinter hit the nape of Almonte while the bullet slug hit the left temple and exited in the nape of Mayor Gutierrez,” Alviar said in his report.
Almonte sustained a minor injury on his nape while Gutierrez was rushed to the Misamis University Medical Center in Ozamiz City and was later transferred to the Mayor Hilarion A. Ramiro Sr. (MHARS) Medical Center.
A message from the family of Gutierrez posted on his Facebook page shortly after 7 a.m. on Thursday, said the surgery performed on Gutierrez ended at 3 a.m. and was “successful” but his condition continues to be monitored at the Intensive Care Unit because “critical pa kini kay severe ang iyang brain injury” (he is in critical condition because of a severe brain injury).
“Naigo sa left side sa brain pero na apektohan usab ang right nga bahin. Hangtod karon wala pa nakamata si Mayor” (The left side of his brain was hit but it also affected the right side. Until now, the mayor has yet to regain consciousness), the family’s message said.
The family thanked everyone for their messages of support and prayers for the mayor’s fast recovery and appealed to the public to “please stop spreading fake news and please respect the family members.”
“Wala’y impossible sa atong Ginoong manluluwas” (Nothing is impossible with God our Savior), the family said.
Ozamiz City Mayor Ando Oaminal, son of Rep. Henry Oaminal, posted on his Facebook page this message: “Desperate moves. My father, Cong. Henry, is okay. My brother, Atty. Indy, and the other team members are also safe.”
The elder Oaminal, who is ending his third term as 2nd district Representative, is running for Governor of Misamis Occidental against reelectionist Philip Tan (Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino) and Bibiano Salvanera (Ind). Before he was elected Governor, Tan was mayor of Tangub City from 1992 to 2001 and 2010 to 2019.
Rep. Oaminal condemned the “desperate and cowardly attempt on our lives” as he claimed the bullet was intended for him.
“The assassin’s bullet barely missed me, with the intention of bereaving my beloved family this Yuletide season,” he said, adding “I only suffered minor wounds.”
“We will seek out those responsible in the name of fair and peaceful elections. Together, we shall overcome,” he said.
Gutierrez is running against Richard Centino (National Unity Party) and Alfredo Conol of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas.
Not from same political camp but…
In a statement, Tan said they are praying for “peace, justice and healing” of Gutierrez. “We may not be in the same [political] camp but it is NOT RIGHT that this criminal act be done to you.”
Tan urged the Philippine National Police to conduct a thorough investigation.
“We pray for comfort and peace as well to Cong. Henry, Mayor Jason and the rest of the Team,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Benjamin Acorda, chief of the Philippine National Police in Northern Mindanao, in a statement assured the public that “thorough investigation is currently being undertaken to identify the suspect.”
He said a SITG (Special Investigation Task Group) Oaminal-Gutierrez-Almonte has been created “for the conduct of focus investigation.”
He urged the public to “provide us relevant information especially those who witnessed the incident” and to report it to the nearest police stations or through number 09176111813 and 09153033072.
Councilor Andrea Gutierrez, the mayor’s daughter who is running for mayor, said they were supposed to surprise her brother who is celebrating his 19th birthday today (December 23) “and this happened.”
In another message posted shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday, she said: “Pa, gahulat mi sa imong pag mata balik. 2 days nalang pasko na” (Pa, we are waiting for you to wake up. In two days it will be Christmas).
Fructouso Paredes, an uncle of Almonte, said his nephew had just finished speaking to his party mates and had just taken his seat when the shot was heard.
Paredes said the security men of Oaminal quickly put out the lights and covered Almonte and the rest of the guests with tablecloths to hide their faces. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)