PNP identifies alleged mastermind behind Mayor Bote murder

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 16) —   The Philippine National Police (PNP) has named the alleged mastermind behind the murder of Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija Mayor Ferdinand Bote.

In a media briefing Monday, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said a certain businessman and contractor, identified as Christian Saquilabon, was the man behind the brutal slay of Bote.

Saquilabon, who is also from Nueva Ecija, is a supposed business rival of the mayor.

Bote, whose family owns a construction company, allegedly got into a fight with the suspect over the construction of a P96 million tourism hub at the Minalungao National Park in Gen. Tinio.

"The project napunta kay Forthright (Construction), kay Christian (Saquilabon) nga po 'yun, based on our initial findings," PNP Central Luzon Chief Supt. Amador Corpus told reporters.

"Sobra na 'yung, ginigipit, ginigipit sila ni Mayor. Dahil nga ang project is inside General Tinio."

[Translation: The tourism hub project was assigned to Fortright Construction, which Christian owns, based on our initial findings. They were put in a tight spot by the mayor. Because the project is inside General Tinio.]

PNP said they are "looking at 8 suspects in the killing," with 5 of them already identified- Saquilabon, alleged gunmen Florencio Suarez and Robert Gumacay, 'spotter' Junjun Fajardo, and architect Arnold Gamboa.

Authorities said it was Saquilabon who contacted Suarez to plot the murder.

Suarez and Gumacay were arrested last week, while Gamboa later surrendered to the police. PNP added they plan to file murder charges against the suspects not later than Tuesday.

Read: Nueva Ecija town mayor shot dead

Albayalde also revealed that it was not the first time the group had attempted to carry out the killing.

"We have intelligence information na nagkaroon ng attempt na 'yan (there has been an attempt) three weeks before the incident," the director general said.

He added that PNP has neutralized at least 10 gun-for-hire suspects in Calabarzon Region alone since the series of killings of the local officials.

At least four elected local officials were killed since July 2.

Bote was on board a vehicle when he was shot dead in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija last July 3.