Drug-Fueled Gunman Kills Seven in Philippines
A gunman with a semi-automatic pistol killed seven people and wounded 11 others during a drug-fueled rampage in a slum near the Philippine capital on Friday, authorities said.
The ordeal, which ended when police shot the assailant dead, again raised concerns about the country's lax gun controls after the week began with two children dying from bullets fired by revelers to celebrate New Year's Eve.
Two girls, aged three and seven, as well as a pregnant woman, were among the seven confirmed fatalities in Friday's rampage, according to police in Kawit town on the outskirts of Manila where the killings occurred.
"It was random. He would fire at anybody who crossed his path," Kawit police investigating officer Arnulfo Lopez told Agence France Presse, adding the shooting spree lasted for about half an hour.
Residents of the rundown town hid in their homes and gardens as the man, a former low-level local politician named Ronaldo Bae, roamed through narrow streets and a market firing what police said was a .45 semi-automatic pistol.
"As we were hiding out in the muddy yard, I was thinking about my nephews and niece (in their house)," resident Edwin Lacorte told AFP.
"I wanted to go back. The children were crying for help, but what can you do, the man has a gun."
Lacorte's niece was the murdered seven-year-old girl.
Bae lived in a nearby house and most of the victims were his neighbors.
One of the others killed was 56-year-old Alberto Fernandez, who was shot as he stood on his porch, according to the victim's brother-in-law, Lito Ronquillo.
Ronquillo spoke to AFP in the narrow street where the initial shootings took place. A bullet hole could be seen in a window above the porch where Fernandez died.
Bae then walked towards a nearby market, shooting more people before returning home where police demanded he surrender, according to Lopez, the local police officer.
"He opened fire on the police. So a gunbattle ensued which resulted in the death of the suspect," Lopez said.
Bae had once served on a local council but was also a known drug dealer and had been taking methamphetamines since New Year's Eve, said Juanito Victor Remulla, the governor of Cavite province which includes Kawit town.
Kawit police chief Superintendent Dionisio Borromeo also told reporters that "paraphenalia" used for methamphetamines, known locally as shabu, had been found at Bae's home.
Friday's shooting came after the New Year's Eve deaths of a seven-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy by celebratory gunfire triggered outrage and condemnation of the Philippines' poorly enforced gun laws.
There were 1.2 million registered firearms in the Philippines last year, with another 600,000 unlicensed weapons in circulation, according to data from the police firearms and explosives office.
Vice President Jejomar Binay issued a statement following the death of the seven-year-old girl killed in one of the New Year's Eve incidents to condemn the country's poor gun controls.
"This incident should not be allowed to become just another statistic. We have enough laws to penalize but the problem has always been in the enforcement of laws," Binay said.
Kawit police officer Jaime Rollon said firearms were common in the area.
"There are a lot of people with guns here. There are civilians with guns, even without official permits to carry. They can find a way," he said.