NBI steps in to probe Calbayog mayor's slay after police linked to ambush

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 9) — The National Bureau of Investigation will look into the shooting incident that killed Calbayog City Mayor Ronaldo Aquino and his aides after police officers were implicated in the ambush.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday said they have received a report that policemen were involved in Monday's shootout that killed the mayor, his driver, his security escort, and one suspect in Barangay Lonoy, Tinambacan District in Calbayog. He said he will direct the NBI to step in to provide an objective and impartial investigation.

"Ire-refer namin sa NBI for the simple reason na ang other party involved ay PNP. Iyon ang na-gather naming information, na ang naka-engkuwentro allegedly ay police officers. So magkakaibang version iyan," he said in a text message to reporters.

[Translation: We will refer it to the NBI for the simple reason that the other party involved is the PNP. They were in an encounter with alleged police officers, that's the information we gathered. Those are different versions.]

The PNP's initial statement hours after the deadly ambush said "some police personnel" were involved in the shooting incident. But according to the police report released later, it said Aquino and his aides were on their way to a resort owned by the family when they were killed in an exchange of gunfire with men on board two vehicles Monday afternoon.

A special task group was created by the PNP Eastern Visayas to investigate the ambush. PNP Chief Gen. Debold Sinas also directed Eastern Visayas Regional Director BGen. Ronaldo de Jesus to conduct a thorough investigation.

In a separate statement, Vice President Leni Robredo said incidents such as the mayor's killing "should not be treated as normal."

"It should not be treated as normal that mayors, community organizers, lawyers, judges, journalists, children, and even victims of the drug trade are outright murdered in our streets or in their homes. We must connect the dots between these gruesome deaths and see the web that enables and emboldens these killings: Impunity, the normalization and incitement of violence, and the kill, kill, kill rhetoric coming from the highest offices," she said.

Robredo added that Aquino's death must be investigated and his killers be brought to justice.

Aquino was serving his last and final term as mayor of Calbayog. He first served as local chief executive in 2011 after then-incumbent mayor Reynaldo Uy was assassinated while attending a fiesta celebration in Hinabangan, Samar.

Uy's death remains unsolved.

CNN Philippines justice correspondent, stringer Wilmark Amazona contributed to this report.