Inside out

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Batanes gov, driver hurt in ambush; political squabble eyed

Posted by Abi Kwok on September 3, 2008

Victims out of danger–doctor

By Abigail Kwok, DJ Yap
INQUIRER.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:07:00 09/03/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 3) Batanes Governor Telesforo Castillejos and his driver, who were wounded in an assassination attempt on the provincial executive early Wednesday morning, are out of danger, their doctor said early Wednesday evening.

Dr. Arnold Ozaeta, Castillejos’ surgeon, said the governor and Arnold Patimo said both victims suffered “superficial” wounds.

Ozaete said Castillejos underwent minor surgery to clean his wounds but “is in very stable condition. No bullets hit the vital organ.”

However, both Castillejos and Patimo remain confined to the intensive care unit, but are expected to be transferred to a private room by Thursday.

Police theorize that the motive for the assassination attempt could have been a political squabble.

Castillejos and Patimo, were rushed to the Parañaque Doctors Hospital by the governor’s son Dominic, who was not hurt in the attack, investigators said.

The assassination attempt occurred at about 3:30 a.m. while the governor and his group were on board a Pajero with plate number SFY-395 and were on their way to the airport, Senior Superintendent Marieto Valerio, the Pasay police chief said.

Castillejos had come from Sun Valley, Parañaque City, and was headed toward the West Service Road and past the Kalayaan tollgate when the attack occurred, the official said.

“It was dark and they didn’t get a good look on the assassins. All they saw was a blue SUV [sports utility vehicle]. They didn’t see the model or plate number,” Valerio said.

Valerio said it was Patimo who bore the brunt of the attack since the assailants shot them from the left, or the driver’s side. Castillejos was in the passenger seat.

Dominic told investigators that they noticed an unidentified vehicle tailing them. Thinking that the vehicle just wanted to overtake them, Patimo slowed down.

When the vehicle approached, however, Dominic said he thought stones were being thrown at them and then noticed only later that his father and driver had been shot.

Dominic said he immediately took over and drove to the Parañaque Doctors Hospital.

The two were later transferred to the Medical City in Ortigas, Pasig City.

Valerio said it was not immediately clear how many assailants there were, what caliber of firearms were used, and what the motive was for the attack although Director Geary Barias, National Capital Region police chief, in a press conference, provided some of the possible answers.

Barias said police are looking into the possibility the ambush was tied to an ongoing case against Castillejos that was filed at the Office of the Ombudsman.

“We found out na merong nakabinbing kaso laban kay [that there is a pending case against the] governor filed by some politicians [at the Ombudsman] and there have been some exchange of words,” he said.

Police were also not discounting the fact that the suspects were hired, professional killers because of the way they conducted the ambush.

“Planado lahat eh [It was all planned]. They knew that the governor was going to the airport,” Barias said.

But Barias also clarified that everything was still speculative at the moment and the police had no concrete evidence in their hands.

Barias said that police investigators found 9-millimeter shells in the crime scene, but based on the account by Dominic who said that he felt like stones were being thrown at them could mean that silencers were also used.

Barias will also recommend the creation of a task force to speed up the investigation on the matter.

“We are confident that we will solve this case,” he added, adding that no suspects have been invited for questioning as of this time.

Meanwhile, Castillejos’ spokesman, Jun Abad, said the family of the governor “condemns in the strongest possible terms” the attack but that they believe it was an “isolated case.”

“Despite this, Batanes remains a peaceful place and the Ivatans a peace-loving people,” Abad said.

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