Governor survives assassination attempt

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — BATANES Gov. Telesforo Castillejos and his driver were shot and wounded in a pre-dawn assassination attempt in Pasay City yesterday, police said.

Gunmen attacked Castillejos while he was traveling in a Mitsubish Pajero with his 21-year-old son Dominic at 3:25 a.m. near the toll gate of the Merville exit of the South Luzon Expressway.

Castillejos, 61, was wounded in the neck and shoulders, while his driver, Albert Patimo, was in critical condition, police said. The son, who was in the backseat, was uninjured and drove the pair to Parañaque Doctor’s Hospital.

He later told police they were nearing the Merville exit when they noticed a sports utility vehicle tailing them.

Thinking that the vehicle wanted to overtake, Patimo slowed down to let it pass, but as it sped by on the left, shots rang out.

Dominic at first thought that stones were being thrown at them, but it turned out the gunmen were using silencers.

The driver, who was shot in the head and neck, bore the brunt of the attack because the gunmen passed on his side.

Police said Castillejos was traveling to the airport from his Sun Valley residence in Parañaque when he was attacked. He had no security.

Dominic could not describe the gunmen because it was dark, police said.

They also said the attack looked like the work of professional killers.

The governor’s family said they were working closely with police to determine the motive of the attack and “bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.”

“Our family would like to inform his constituency in Batanes that the governor is now in stable condition,” said his nephew Jun Abad on local radio.

He said Castillejos had no known enemies in Batanes.

President Arroyo, who visited Castillejos at the Medical City in Pasig after he was transferred there, ordered the police to move quickly to arrest those responsible for the attack.

“The President was very angry,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said at a press briefing.

In an earlier radio interview yesterday, Ermita raised suspicions that politics was behind the assassination attempt.

Metro Manila police chief Geary Barias said the attack could be related to last year’s election or to a complaint filed against the governor before the Ombudsman. He declined to elaborate.

In a radio interview, Abad said the family did not know anyone the governor could have angered.

He said Batanes, the country’s smallest and northernmost province with a population of only 16,467, was virtually crime-free. The island province, divided into six municipalities, has a land area of 209.3 square kilometers.

The League of Provinces condemned the attack.

“The governors are enraged by this arrogant display of brutality and violence in the heart of our country’s capital,” said Leo Ocampos, the league’s president and governor of Misamis Occidental.