Gunmen kill fourth Philippine local official in a week

MANILA, July 11 (Reuters) - Two motorcycle-borne gunmen on Wednesday killed the vice mayor of a southern Philippine town, the fourth local official assassinated in a week, including one President Rodrigo Duterte said may have had links to illegal drugs.

The attack took to 16 the number of mayors and vice mayors killed since Duterte unleashed his deadly anti-narcotics campaign when he came to power in 2016, media said.

"We're still investigating the motive for the killing," said Allan Nazaro, police chief of Zamboanga City, after Wednesday's attack on Al Rashid Mohammad Ali, vice mayor of the town of Sapa-sapa in the southernmost province of Tawi-Tawi.

RELATED: Everything you didn't know about Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte

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Everything you didn't know about Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte
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Everything you didn't know about Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte was born on March 28, 1945 in Maasin, Southern Leyte, Philippines.

(PHILIPPINES-DAVAO/MODEL REUTERS/Renato Lumawag)

Duterte became the mayor of Davao City in 1988, where he earned the nickname “The Punisher.” He served as mayor for 20 years, non-consecutively.

(PHILIPPINES-DAVAO/MODEL REUTERS/Renato Lumawag)

Duterte comes from a family of politicians. His father, Vicente Duterte, was the governor of unified Davao and a member of President Ferdinand Marcos' cabinet. His daughter, Sara Duterte, is currently the mayor of Davao City.

(REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

Rodrigo Duterte was elected the 16th president of the Philippines in May 2016.

(REUTERS/Czar Dancel)

Duterte once compared himself to Adolf Hitler, saying he would kill millions of drug addicts.

(REUTERS/Ezra Acayan)

Duterte has led a violent anti-drug crackdown, and more than 7,000 have reportedly been killed since he has taken office. 

(Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Duterte called President Barack Obama a “son of a wh**e.” He made the comments after Obama brought up concerns about human rights violations in 2016. Duterte later apologized for the comment.

(Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Weeks before being sworn in as president, Duterte fueled an already hostile environment for journalists when he said, "Just because you're a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you're a son of a b****." 

(REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

In 2015, Duterte vowed to execute 100,000 criminals and dump their bodies into Manila Bay. 

(REUTERS/Czar Dancel)

Duterte cursed Pope Francis over traffic that was generated by his visit. 

"We were affected by the traffic," Duterte said. "It took us five hours. I asked why, they said it was closed. I asked who is coming. They answered, the Pope. I wanted to call him: 'Pope, son of a wh**e, go home. Do not visit us again'."

He later apologized. 

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Duterte came under fire in April 2016 after he made a joke about a missionary who was gang raped and murdered during a prison riot in 1989. “But she was so beautiful,” Duterte said. “I thought the mayor should have been first.” 

(REUTERS/Harley Palangchao)

A witness testified in Sept. 2016, claiming he was a member of Duterte's alleged "Davao Death Squad," and that the Filipino president gave orders to kill drug dealers, drug users and others who may violate the law. 

(Photo credit should read Ezra Acayan / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

In December of 2016, Duterte said President Donald Trump endorses his violent and deadly campaign against drugs after a brief phone call. 

(REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

Congressman Gary Alejano filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte in March 2017, claiming he is guilty of crimes against humanity and murder.

(REUTERS/Erik De Castro TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

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A relative was driving Ali in his vehicle when the gunmen opened fire, he added.

Three mayors, who were on Duterte's watchlist of local officials suspected to have drug links, had been killed in two years. Ali is the second vice mayor to be assassinated.

Last week, 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 Duterte had put him on a watchlist of regional leaders.

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

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.

Alexander Lubigan of Trece Martires, also south of Manila, was also killed in an ambush on Saturday. (Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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