Mayor killed in shoot-out with Philippine cops

Police investigators collecting evidence at the scene of the shoot-out in Makilala, in southern Philippines, yesterday. The mayor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Mr Samsudin Dimaukom, and nine others were killed before dawn in a gun battle with anti-narcotic
Police investigators collecting evidence at the scene of the shoot-out in Makilala, in southern Philippines, yesterday. The mayor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Mr Samsudin Dimaukom, and nine others were killed before dawn in a gun battle with anti-narcotics officers.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Official on Duterte's crime list said to be transporting drugs

A town mayor, tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte as being among hundreds of big-time politicians who are behind the Philippines' illicit drug trade, was killed in a reported shoot-out with police yesterday.

Initial reports said Mr Samsudin Dimaukom, mayor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, the Philippines' second-poorest municipality and part of the war-torn southern province of Maguindanao, was killed along with nine others, said to be his bodyguards.

Mr Dimaukom and his men were reportedly caught trying to move a large quantity of narcotics at a checkpoint in Makilala town, in the neighbouring province of North Cotabato.

Instead of surrendering, they exchanged fire with dozens of policemen, according to Makilala police chief Elias Colonia.

Mr Dimaukom and his wife Anida were on a list, disclosed in August by Mr Duterte, of about 1,000 politicians, policemen, soldiers, judges and civil servants allegedly involved in the drug trade.

He presented himself to law enforcers after he was named, and claimed Mr Duterte was mistaken.

Police raided his Datu Saudi Ampatuan compound last month but did not find any illegal drugs.

Mr Dimaukom ran under the Liberal Party banner of former president Benigno Aquino. An election case filed against him claimed that he was backed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Muslim secessionist group trying to work out a peace deal with the government.

His death comes as Mr Duterte said he expects about 20,000 to 30,000 more to die as he pursues his bloody anti-crime drive.

"I tell you, I will triple it, if my wish to rid my country of the drug problem is not fulfilled. You can expect 20,000 to 30,000 more deaths," he said shortly after arriving home from an official visit to Japan on Thursday evening.

More than 2,200 people - a revised figure from some 3,400 reported by police earlier - have been killed either by police or vigilantes since Mr Duterte took office on June 30. Most of those killed were suspected drug traffickers and users, but a few were just at the wrong place at the wrong time, including a five-year-old girl.

The killings have sparked an outcry among human rights advocates. The United Nations, the European Union and the United States have also expressed their concerns.

Mr Duterte has named five police generals, including the former police chief in metropolitan Manila, as coddlers of big-time drug syndicates.

Out of the 1,000 people on his drug list, Mr Duterte has had to apologise to three - a provincial governor, a provincial board member and a former provincial administrator - for mistakenly including them.

The Justice Ministry has yet to file charges against most of those named by Mr Duterte.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2016, with the headline 'Mayor killed in shoot-out with Philippine cops'. Print Edition | Subscribe