By Martin Sadongdong
Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) found at least 39 fired cartridge cases on the ambush site where Sudipen, La Union Mayor Alexander Buquing, and two others were killed — a clear indication that the gunmen were out finish them off, a police official disclosed Wednesday.
Sr. Supt. Ricardo Layug, provincial director of La Union Provincial Police Office (PPO), told the Manila Bulletin that the recovered cartridge cases matched the empty shells of a 5.56 mm from an M16 rifle.
“Sa ganoong dami, ‘yun talaga, may intent to kill talaga (With that number, there was really an intent to kill),” Layug noted.
“Pinapa-cross-matching na natin ito sa previous incidents within the province. Baka mayroong pinaggamitan, baka merong involved na firearm na M16 para makakuha tayo ng lead sa suspects (We have subjected it [cartridge cases] to a cross-matching examination with previous incidents in the province. Probably we can get a lead on the suspects if there is an M16 firearm that would match them,” he added.
According to witnesses, at least five gunmen were involved in the killing of the 50-year-old mayor on Monday.
Aside from Buquing, also killed were PO2 Rolando Juanbe, 42; and the mayor’s driver, Boni Dedpeden.
Buquing’s wife, Sudipen town Vice Mayor Wendy Joy, survived the attack. It was learned that the group was on their way home from a wake when they were waylaid.
Layug said they were monitoring “several” persons-of-interest, who are possibly members of gun-for-hire (GFH) groups operating in the first district of La Union.
“May mga ilang grupo kaming tinitignan, ‘yung iba sa kanila minsan nagsasama-sama (We have several groups monitoring, some of them are teaming up sometimes),” he said without disclosing the names of the groups to avoid jeopardizing the investigation.
“Nandyan talaga ‘yung gun-for-hire, hindi mawawala ‘yan, tinitignan natin sa area ng first district (The [possibility] that they are members of a gun-for-hire group is really there, we are looking at those [based] in the first district),” he stated.
Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson, Chief Superintendent Benigno Durana Jr. earlier announced that paid assassins could be behind the grim killing, especially with the election season already near.
With that, the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Buquing is currently eyeing several possible motives behind the killing of Buquing, most especially the angle of politics.
“Nabanggit niya kasi na tatakbo uli siya sa susunod na eleksyon so ‘yun ang pinaka-ano natin. Pero hindi natin pwedeng ipagsawalang-bahala ‘yung personal na galit pati mga business niya (He previously said that he was going to run in the next elections so that is really where we are [focusing]. Although, we are not discounting the possibility that it could also be because of a personal grudge or business conflict),” Layug said.
Buquing first ran and won as mayor of Sudipen town in 2004, and was re-elected in 2007 and 2010.
In 2013, his wife Wendy Joy ran for the mayoralty, while he slid down to vice mayor. Both won.
In 2016, he went back to the mayoralty position and won under the Liberal Party.
As for the business side, Buquing is said to be a local distributor of a big softdrink brand in La Union.
Being the vice mayor, Wendy Joy will replace him as mayor.
“Kanina binisita ko siya and okay naman na siya, nagre-recover na and nakakausap na. Baka mahingian na natin ng statement sa susunod na mga araw (Earlier today [Wednesday] I visited her and she seems okay, she is on her way to recovery and we can already talk to her. Probabaly we can get a statement from her in the coming days),” Layug shared.