Here’s the latest updates on the killing of Mayor Cesar Rafael of Paracelis, Mt. Province. Read our first post here.
This could very well be the first politically-motivated killing in Mt. Province. It is, of course, shocking that it happened but that it happened in Paracelis is not that shocking. The town has a reputation as the province’s “wild east”; it’s kind of like Abra in terms of its brand of politics and in the possibility that violence, which brews unseen, could burst out to the surface.
Still, there is no excuse for murders like this. Our condolences to the mayor’s family and we hope that his killers are brought to justice.
Here’s an Inquirer story by Frank Cimatu and Desiree Caluza:
The killers of Mayor Cesar Rafael of Paracelis, Mt. Province, fired at least 60 bullets into his car that shattered parts of his body.
Residents who saw Rafael’s body at the Paracelis District Hospital in Barangay Poblacion in the town described what was done to the mayor as a “desecration.”
“His eyes and ears were blown off. His arm was almost torn off,” a Paracelis resident said through a text message. “This could only be done by an outsider. Anyone who truly knows the mayor would not have done this,” the resident said.
Rafael was driving his Toyota Hilux and had just left his farm in Barangay Palitod in Paracelis when he was attacked between 12 and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, police said.
Signs of planning
Reports said Rafael attended a family gathering in the area on Christmas Day.
Mt. Province Gov. Maximo Dalog said the attack was well planned because the police found ropes and unused bullets near the ambush site. He said reports reaching him showed that at least five men were involved in the attack. Dalog has asked the police to speed up the investigation of Rafael’s murder.
Chief Supt. Eugene Martin, Cordillera police director, and Senior Supt. Joseph Adnol, Mt. Province police director, described the attackers as “merciless.”
“Galit na galit (The suspects were seething with anger). Rafael was shot about three to four meters away after coming from his farm … They really wanted him dead,” said Martin.
“Based on our initial investigation, mukhang may galit at may paghihiganti kay Mayor Rafael (It seemed the attackers were really angry and wanted to exact revenge on Mayor Rafael),” Adnol told the Inquirer in a telephone interview.
Another task force
The police formed “Task Force Mayor Rafael” to investigate the mayor’s murder. Martin said they were looking at several angles for the attack, among them politics, a land dispute and the possibility of involvement of the New People’s Army in the murder.
Rafael, a long-time mayor of Paracelis, was recently elected president of the mayors’ league of Mt. Province. His daughter, Ana Maria Paz Rafael-Banaag, is mayor of nearby Natonin town.
Attack in bailiwick
Some residents said it was surprising that Rafael would be attacked in Palitod because the village is his bailiwick. They said Rafael owned a huge tract of land there and had donated his house to be turned into a school in the village.
Paracelis is more than four hours’ drive from the capital town of Bontoc. The town shares borders with Isabela, Kalinga and Ifugao. Rafael was added to the growing list of murdered local officials in the area. Most of the murders have not been solved.