Philippine city official killed in ambush, third in less than a week

MANILA, July 7 (Reuters) - Gunmen killed a city vice mayor in the Philippines on Saturday, police said, less than a week after two mayors were shot dead in separate incidents, including one President Rodrigo Duterte said may have had links to illegal drugs.

The latest attack brought to 15 the number of mayors and vice mayors killed since Duterte unleashed his deadly anti-narcotics campaign when he came to power in 2016, according to CNN Philippines, citing a tally of its own research team.

Duterte has a watchlist of local officials suspected to have links to illegal drug trade.

The daughter of one of the other victims this week said her father was not involved in drugs and police investigators said they had not received any information linking the other to the trade.

RELATED: The deadly side of the Philippines' drug war

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The deadly side of the Philippines' drug war
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH Jennelyn Olaires, 26, weeps over the body of her partner, who was killed on a street by a vigilante group, according to police, in a spate of drug related killings in Pasay city, Metro Manila, Philippines July 23, 2016. A sign on a cardboard found near the body reads: "Pusher Ako", which translates to "I am a drug pusher." REUTERS/Czar Dancel SEARCH "CZAR DRUGS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH Jennelyn Olaires, 26, cradles the body of her partner, who was killed on a street by a vigilante group, according to police, in a spate of drug related killings in Pasay city, Metro Manila, Philippines July 23, 2016. A sign on a cardboard found near the body reads: "Pusher Ako", which translates to "I am a drug pusher." REUTERS/Czar Dancel SEARCH "CZAR DRUGS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Jennelyn Olaires, 26, looks at the body of her partner Michael Siaron during his wake in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Czar Dancel SEARCH "CZAR DRUGS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Jennelyn Olaires, 26, uses her mobile phone as she sits beside the coffin of her partner Michael Siaron in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Czar Dancel SEARCH "CZAR DRUGS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Jennelyn Olaires, 26, talks to her friends during the wake of her partner Michael Siaron in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Czar Dancel SEARCH "CZAR DRUGS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
People attend the wake of Michael Siaron in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Czar Dancel SEARCH "CZAR DRUGS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Jennelyn Olaires, 26, (R) sleeps on chairs at the wake of her partner Michael Siaron in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Czar Dancel SEARCH "CZAR DRUGS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
People play Bingo below a poster of late Michael Siaron at his wake in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Czar Dancel SEARCH "CZAR DRUGS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATHA woman cradles the body of her husband, who was killed on a street by a vigilante group, according to police, in a spate of drug related killings in Pasay city, Metro Manila, Philippines July 23, 2016. A sign on a cardboard found near the body reads: "Pusher Ako", which translates to "I am a drug pusher." REUTERS/Czar Dancel
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH Funeral workers carry the body of one of the five suspected drug pushers killed in a police operation in Quiapo city, metro Manila, Philippines July 3, 2016. REUTERS/Czar Dancel/File Photo
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Police have killed more than 4,200 suspected drugs dealers and users since Duterte came to power. Several thousand more have been murdered by unknown gunmen, described by authorities as vigilantes or rival gang members.

Police have denied the allegations by rights groups and critics of the campaign that some of the killings were summary executions, saying they had to use force because the suspects, who were armed, had violently resisted arrest.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the "worrisome incidents of violence involving local politicians" must end and police must "spare no effort in getting to the bottom of this latest crime."

Alexander Lubigan, vice mayor of Trece Martires City in Cavite, south of Manila, was in a sports utility vehicle when unidentified gunmen aboard another SUV opened fire, police said. His bodyguard was also killed.

The motive and identities of the gunmen in the latest killing are still being investigated, Chief Superintendent Edward Carranza, a police regional director, said.

On Monday, Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan City in Batangas, south of Manila, was hit by a bullet in the chest during a flag-raising ceremony.

Halili had gained prominence in 2016 for parading drug suspects in the streets, but he was included in Duterte's watchlist of local leaders.

Duterte has said the mayor may have had some drug involvement and his campaign to parade suspects was a ploy to convince police he was not engaged in the illegal drug trade. Halili's daughter denied her father had links to the drugs trade.

On Tuesday, gunmen on a motorcycle killed Mayor Ferdinand Bote of General Tinio town in Nueva Ecija province, but police said he was not linked to the drug trade.

 

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz Editing by Alison Williams)

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