FREEDOM MAYORS

The murdered mayors of the Philippines
By City Mayors Research*

Philippines killed mayors
ON THIS PAGE: 28 Philippine mayors killed ||| List of “narco politicians” ||| “War on drugs” victims ||| 35,000 killed during Duterte presidency ||| The 28 mayors killed ||| Research & sources |||


ON OTHER PAGES: Freedom Mayors ||| The killing of Mexican mayors ||| Mayor of Istanbul ||| Corrupt American mayors


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28 Philippine mayors killed during
the Duterte presidency 2016 - 2022

December 2022: Rodrigo Duterte, the former Mayor of Davao and Philippine President from 2016 to 2022, began his “war on drugs” virtually as soon as he was sworn into office in June 2016. By the end of his presidency, his campaign, which was largely modelled on his approach to illegal narcotics as Mayor of Davao, claimed tens of thousands of lives. Among the victims were 28 mayors and vice mayors, most of them killed by unidentified gunmen. Others were shot dead by police officers, some even while in police custody. The country’s Catholic leaders called the campaign a “reign of terror”.


List of “narco politicians”
A few months after he assumed the presidency of the Philippines, Duterte read out a list of some 160 public officials he accused of being involved in the narcotics trade. When the President’s administration published a follow-up version of the list, which included an additional 600 people, with many of those mentioned working in local government, Duterte warned mayors on the list to resign or “face death”.

The New York Times reported in June 2021 that the list of 600 included 44 mayors, vice mayors and other local government officials who were described as “narco politicians”. The newspaper found that more than half of those on the list were killed by police, with the authorities claiming the accused resisted arrest.


“War on drugs” claimed up to 35,000 victims
Philippine Government data released in June 2021 showed that as of the end of April 2021, police and other security forces had killed at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers during its operations. But government figures cited by the UN in June 2020 already pointed to at least 8,600 deaths. A Philippine police report in 2017 also referred to 16,355 “homicide cases under investigations” as accomplishments in the drugs war.

Human rights groups say the number of deaths could be between 27,000 and 30,000. They accuse the authorities of carrying out summary executions that killed innocent suspects, including children.

Among those killed were at least 73 children, with the youngest just five months old, according to a UN investigation. Countless people were also killed by “unknown” gunmen, who later turned out to be police officers, according to news reports. Only very few of the thousands of cases reported were prosecuted.

Rappler, the Philippine campaigning news service founded by Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa, put the total number of people killed during police drug operations, by unidentified assailants as well as by vigilante-style gunmen as between 30,000 and 35,000. Based on data obtained from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, the Department of Justice and others, Rappler recorded the following killings.

Killed during Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency
(June 2016 to June 2022)
• Individuals, including those killed vigilante style: 27,000 to 30,000
• Individuals in police anti-drug operations: 6,250
• Activists, human rights defenders: 427
• Land defenders and environmental activists: 166
• Journalists, media workers: 23
• Judges, lawyers, prosecutors: 66
• Mayors, vice mayors: 28


Philippine mayors killed
during the Duterte presidency

Towns
(Province)
Mayors
Elected
Killed
Reports
Al-Barka (Basilan) Darussalam Lajid
Mayor
Killed December 2021 In an attack, Mayor Darussalam Lajidwas was killed together with an aide, while fellow mayor Alih Salih was wounded. The victims came under attack while on their way to a mosque.
Albuera
(Leyte)
Rolando Espinosa
Mayor
Party: Independent
Elected 2016
Killed November 2016
Mayor Rolando Espinosa was shot dead inside his prison cell. He had been arrested the previous month for illegal drug possession.

The mayor was on President Duterte's list of politicians linked to the drug trade.
Balaoan
(La Union)
Alfred Concepcion
Vice Mayor
Party: Liberal (centre-left, liberal)
Elected 2016; Killed November 2018 Vice Mayor Alfred Concepcion and his daughter Mayor Aleli Concepcion were attacked while on their way to the town hall. The Vice Mayor died from multiple gunshot wounds, while his daughter, the mayor, was badly injured.
Balete
(Batangas)
Joven Hidalgo
Mayor
Party: Nationalist People's Coalition (conservative)
Elected 2010; Killed June 2017 Mayor Joven Hidalgo was gunned down by unidentified men while watching a basketball game.
Batuan
(Masbate)
Charlie Yuson
Vice Mayor
Killed October 2019 Vice Mayor Charlie Yuson was shot dead by two unidentified men while breakfasting with two other people. The Vice Mayor was pronounced dead at the scene of the crime while his two companions were badly wounded.
Bien Unido
(Bohol)
Gisela Boniel
Mayor
Party: Nationalist People's Coalition (conservative)
Elected 2016; Killed June 2017 Mayor Gisela Boniel was believed to have been abducted and killed over marital problems.
Buenavista
(Bohol)
Ronald Tirol
Mayor
Party: United National Alliance (conservative)
Elected 2013; Killed May 2018 Mayor Ronald Tirol was shot dead by three motorcycle riders. Police believed political and business conflicts as possible motives. In 2014, the mayor survived an attempt on his life.
Calbayog
(Samar)
Ronaldo Aquino
Mayor
Killed March 2021 Mayor Ronaldo Aquino together with his body guard and driver were shot dead by police. Supporters of the Mayor claim the mayor and his entourage were ambushed by waiting police officers. A spokesman for the police said the mayor was killed in a shootout with police. The spokesman also said that two police officers were also killed in the shootout.
Clarin
(Misamis Occidental)
David Navarro
Mayor
Party: Nationalist Party (conservative)
Elected 2016; Killed October 2019 Mayor David Navarro was killed in Cebu City in October 2019. He was ambushed as he was being transported to the city prosecutor's office for inquest proceedings in an assault complaint. According to police, masked men stopped the convoy, asked the mayor to get out of the vehicle and shot him dead. The incident happened a day after Navarro was arrested for allegedly beating up a massage therapist.

The Mayor was on President Dutarte's list of mayors linked to the drug trade.
Datu Saudi Ampa
(Maguindanao del Sur)
Samsudin Dimaukom
Mayor
Party: Liberal Party (centre-left, liberal)
Elected 2013; Killed October 2016 Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom was shot down along with nine of his men following a shootout with police.

The mayor and his wife were on President Duterte's list of incumbent and retired government officials allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade. The couple had denied the allegations.
Datu Saudi-Ampatuan
(Maguindanao del Sur)
Anwar Sindatuk
Vice Mayor
Party Liberal Party (centre-left, liberal)
Elected 2016; Killed November 2016 Vice Mayor Anwar Sindatuk was shot dead by unidentified gunmen inside his house.

He was tagged by President Duterte as a “narco politician”.
General Tinio
(Nueva Ecija)
Ferdinand Bote
Mayor
Party: PDP-Laban (social-democratic)
Elected 2016; (Vice Mayor 2010-2016); Killed July 2018 Mayor Ferdinand Bote was shot dead only a day after after Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili was gunned down in Batangas. The mayor was about to leave the National Irrigation Administration office in Cabanatuan City when an unidentified assailant on a motorbike approached his vehicle and shot him through the passenger window.
Libungan
(Cotabato)
Christopher Cuan
Mayor
Killed January 2021 Mayor Christopher Cuan and his driver were shot dead at a cockpit arena in the municipality. The mayor and his driver were tailed by four gunmen onboard a SUV and shot several times according to an investigation.

The Mayor was believed to be on President Duterte's list of mayors linked to the illegal drug trade.
Lopez Jaena
(Misamis Occidental)
Michael Gutierrez
Mayor
Killed December 2021 Mayor Michael Gutierrez was shot dead at a Christmas party by a sniper from an opposite building.
Los Baños
(Laguna)
Caesar Perez
Mayor
Killed December 2020 Mayor Caesar Perez was shot dead by unidentified gunmen inside the town hall.

He was previously included in President Duterte's infamous list of mayors with alleged links to the drug trade. The mayor has always denied the allegations.
Mabuhay
(Zamboanga Sibugay)
Restituto Calonge
Vice Mayor
Killed February 2021 Vice Mayor Restituto Calonge and two other people were assailed by a gunman. The mayor and one of his companions were shot dead on the spot.
Marcos
(Ilocos Norte)
Arsenio Agustin
Mayor
Party: Nationalist Party (conservative)
Elected 2013; Killed June 2017 Mayor Arsenio Agustin was accompanied by his driver when they were gunned down by unidentified assailants. The mayor was inspecting a water impounding project in the village when the assailants fired at them.
Ozamiz
(Misamis Occidental)
Reynaldo Parojinog
Mayor
Party: National Unity Party (socially conservative)
Elected 2001; Killed July 2017 Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 15 others, including his wife, brother and nephew, were killed in a series of raids. A police spokesman said officers were met with violent resistance when they served search warrants for fire arms.

The mayor was on President Duterte's list of mayors with alleged links to illegal drugs, charges which denied consistently.
Pamplona
(Cagayan)
Aaron Sampaga
Vice Mayor
Party Liberal Party (liberal, centre-left)
Elected 2016; Killed August 2016 Vice Mayor Aaron Sampaga was killed by two unidentified gunmen. The Vice Mayor served three terms as mayor before his sister was elected mayor.
Pantar
(Lanao del Norte)
Mohammad Limbona
Mayor
Party: Liberal Party (liberal, centre-left)
Elected 2010; Killed December 2016 Mayor Mohammad Limbona was killed after unidentified gunmen attacked his vehicle. At the time of the shooting, the mayor was accompanied by his wife and daughter. Police suspected a politically motivated killing.
Ronda
(Cebu)
Mariano Blanco
Mayor
Party: Liberal Party
Elected 2010; Killed September 2018 Mayor Mariano Blanco was inside his office in City Hall when he was killed by armed men.

The mayor was on President Duterte's list of mayors with alleged links to the illegal drug trade and had previously been stripped of police powers.
Ronda
(Cebu)
Jonah Ungab
Vice Mayor
Party: Liberal Party (liberal, centre-left)
Elected 2010; Killed February 2018 Vice Mayor Jonah Ungab was in his car when two gunmen killed him instantaneously. The vice mayor acted as legal counsel to a self-confessed 'drug lord' and came from a court hearing related to the case.
Roxas
(Oriental Mindoro)
Jackson Dy
Vice Mayor
Party: National Unity Party (socially conservative)
Elected 2016; Killed September 2017 Vice Mayor Jackson Dy was shot by someone who was released from jail while on a murder charge.
San Andres
(Quezon)
Sergio Emprese
Vice Mayor
Party: Nationalist Party (conservative)
Elected 2019; Killed August 2019 Vice Mayor Sergio Emprese was shot inside his home. He served as mayor from 1998 to 2007 and again between 2010 to 2019, before being elected vice mayor.
Sapa-Sapa
(Tawi-Tawi)
Al-Rashid Mohammad Ali
Vice Mayor
Party: Nationalist People's Coalition (conservative)
Elected 2016; Killed 2018 Vice Mayor Al-Rashid Mohammad Al was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Zamboanga City while travelling by car with his wife and security escort. At the time of the killing, the vice mayor was the fourth local government official murdered during the week.
Sudipen
(La Union)
Alexander Buquing
Mayor
Party: Liberal Party (liberal, centre-left)
Elected 2016; Killed October 2018 Mayor Alexander Buquing and his wife were assailed while travelling by car to their way home. The mayor and two other passengers were killed by several gunshots. His wife suffered life-changing injuries.
Tanauan
(Batangas)
Antonio Halili
Mayor
Party: PDP-Laban (social-democratic)
Elected 2013; Killed July 2018 Mayor Antonio Halili was shot dead during a flag ceremony. Halili, who was known for ordering suspected criminals to take a walk of shame. But, only hours after his killing, President Duterte called him a fraud who pretended to be an anti-illegal drug crusader to cover up his supposed drug activities.
Trece Martires
(Cavite)
Alex Lubigan
Vice Mayor
Party: United Nationalist Alliance (conservative)
Elected 2010; Killed July 2018 Vice Mayor Alex Lubigan was killed by unidentified gunmen while visiting a hospital. He, together with the town's mayor, were subject to corruption allegations.

* The research was conducted during October, November and December 2022. Sources used include Rappler, the New York Times, Reuters, Time Magazine, Human Rights Watch, CNN, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the BBC, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines as well as national and local newspapers and other media in the Philippines. Enquiries to: freedom.mayors@gmail.com


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