TAGUM CITY - A mayor accused of involvement in illegal logging by communist rebels was killed in an ambush Wednesday.
Authorities said Mayor Reynaldo Navarro, of Laak, Compostela Valley province, was ambushed by still unidentified men in Asuncion town, Davao del Norte province.
Two of the assailants were also killed by the mayor's bodyguards.
Capt. Ernest Carolina, 10th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the motorcycle-riding gunmen fired at Navarro's convoy as it passed Barangay (village) Sagayen in Asuncion.
The 62-year-old mayor was with his driver, two bodyguards and four others in a two-car convoy, according to Janice Ollave, the information officer of Laak, quoting police reports.
Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy said Navarro died of multiple gunshot wounds while undergoing treatment at a hospital in Tagum City following the attack.
Navarro's driver and one of his bodyguards were also wounded, Ollave said.
Police said two motorcycle-riding gunmen carried out the attack using submachine pistols. The mayor's bodyguards fired back, killing the two gunmen.
Carolina said it was not clear yet if communist rebels were involved in the attack although there had been suspicion the mayor was a target of the New People's Army (NPA), which had linked the mayor to illegal logging.
Aris Francisco, spokesperson of the NPA's ComVal-North Davao-South Agusan subregional command, had accused the mayor of being part of the so-called "Big 4" logging lords in Compostela Valley.
Navarro had denied this and said the logs found by rebels in his town were cut elsewhere.
Francisco had called Navarro a liar for disowning the logs found in Laak by rebels.
"Navarro even ordered village officials in Datu Davao to fix interior roads to facilitate logging activities, which he sponsored, according to the officials themselves who reported to the New People's Army about Navarro's direct participation in logging activities," Francisco said.
He also said that because of his alleged involvement in logging, Navarro had become the NPA's target as the rebels continue to enforce their version of a total log ban.
Uy said he had asked the police to immediately investigate Navarro's killing to identify those behind it.
"We're all shocked and cannot believe this happened. As if the world for Laak residents has stopped," Ollave said.
Uy said he considered the attack on and killing of Navarro a "black eye" on the provincial government.