A Philippine provincial city mayor known for parading drug suspects in public but also alleged to have drug ties himself was shot and killed Monday during a flag-raising ceremony in front of horrified employees.
Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan city in Batangas province south of Manila was shot by a still-unidentified attacker and died while being brought to a hospital, Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde said. The gunman escaped.
The ceremony was streamed on Facebook Live and was widely shared on social media.
“They did not see anybody approach him. They just heard a gunshot so the assumption or allegation was it could have been a sniper shot,” Albayalde said in a news conference, adding that an investigation was underway.
Dozens of employees and officials scrambled to safety when the gunfire rang out as they were singing the national anthem outside city hall. The bullet hit a cellphone in Halili’s coat pocket then pierced his chest, police said.
Police were scouring a nearby elevated grassy area, where the gunman may have fired the shot.
Halili became controversial two years ago when he ordered drug suspects to be paraded in public in Tanauan, a small city about 70km south of Manila, in a campaign that was dubbed “walks of shame.” The suspects were forced to wear cardboard signs that read “I’m a pusher, don’t emulate me” in a campaign that alarmed human rights officials.
Police officials, however, also linked Halili to illegal drugs, an allegation he strongly denied. He said at the time that he would resign and would be willing to be publicly paraded as a drug suspect if police could come up with evidence to support the allegation.