The mayor of Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, died after suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members ambushed his convoy this morning (Wednesday), authorities said.

Mayor Mario Okinlay was brought to the Malaybalay Polymedic Hospital because of a bullet wound, but he expired after a few hours, Maj. Christian Uy, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said by phone.

Okinlay’s convoy was passing through Brgy. Bontongon around 8:20 a.m., when it was fired upon by at least three armed men, Uy said.

Okinlay and 20 employees of the local government unit and policemen were riding motorcycles, followed by a team of soldiers from the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion who were on a 6×6 truck, he said.

The soldiers returned fire, but the assailants quickly fled, Uy said.

Insp. Joann Galvez, Bukidnon provincial police spokesperson, said Okinlay had just finished conducting a public service program called “Hatod Serbisyo” in Bontongon and was returning to Brgy. Poblacion – located some 18 kilometers away – when suspected NPA members ambushed the convoy.

The mayor suffered a bullet wound to the abdomen during the attack, she said.

Around 11:30 a.m., Okinlay’s brother Dodo, a barangay kagawad, confirmed to police that the mayor passed away, Galvez said.

Authorities suspect the NPA of carrying out the attack because of previous intelligence reports on the rebels’ plan to kill the mayor, she said.

Last June 25, the provincial police’s intelligence branch told the Impasug-ong Police about the NPA’s plan to liquidate Okinlay, Galvez said.

This prompted the town’s police chief to meet with the mayor that day to discuss precautionary and preventive measures, she said.

Uy, for his part, said the rebels might be angry with Okinlay for cooperating with government troops.

“Nakikipag-coordinate siya sa amin, including on this medical mission sa Bontongon. Siguro gusto nilang (rebels) i-discredit yung mga ganitong programs ng local governments with the military,” Uy said, adding that Impasug-ong was once a “rebel-influenced” area.

All police stations in the province have been told to be on the alert and “advise their respective mayors to be cautious because of the incident,” Galvez said.

The provincial police has activated a special investigation task group to identify and charge those who killed Okinlay, while other police units and Army troops were sent to pursue the assailants, she added. (John Roson)

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