San Fernando kagawad slain was running for city council

Contributing photo via Paul Lauro

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Police are investigating multiple motives to shed light on the February 13 murder of a barangay councilwoman in the city of San Fernando and her husband.

The Cebu Provincial Police Bureau (CPPO) said some of the angles they were pursuing to solve the case included business, individuals and politics.

Police Colonel Engelbert Soriano, director of the CPPO, confirmed that Ma. Louela Dela Cerna Baringui-an was a candidate in the municipal elections of May 9, 2022.

Baringui-an, 45, was an outgoing councilor from Panadtaran barangay. She and her husband, Pedro, were killed at their residence in Sitio Tapok-Tapok, Barangay Panadtaran.

Police have yet to identify the couple’s killers. Witnesses told investigators there were five of them, their faces covered in beanies and armed with high-powered firearms.

Related to elections?

Based on the certified list of candidates from the Electoral Commission (Comelec), Baringui-an is among 22 bets seeking a seat in the San Fernando legislature.

She is running under the Nacionalista party with outgoing mayor Neneth Reluya.

San Fernando is a second-class municipality located approximately 38 kilometers south of Cebu City.

It is widely seen by authorities as an “area of ​​concern” due to rampant killings that primarily involved government officials and high-profile figures.

READ: One year after ambush, Reluya says threats continue

The Baringui-an couple was the latest.

But for the police, they cannot yet conclude whether the murders of February 13 were linked to the next elections in May 2022.

Soriano also said they could not recommend, at this point, including San Fernando in “Election Watch List Areas” (EWAs).

However, he added that they would take into account previous killings linked to the southeastern city when assessing election hotspots.

“We will leave that to Comelec (possibly putting San Fernando in the EWAs). The police can only make recommendations based on the outcome of our investigation,” Soriano explained.

San Fernando murders

According to CDN records, the killing spree that claimed the lives of several San Fernando officials began in 2018, a year before the 2019 midterm elections.

Among those who died were former councilors Alexander Alicaway, Rene Boy Dacalos, Magsico Barangay captain Johnny Arriesgado and the current mayor’s husband, Nonoy Reluya.

Nonoy died, along with two of the Mayor’s staff, when their vehicle was ambushed along N. Bacalso Avenue in Barangay Linao, Talisay in January 2019. The mayor survived the ordeal.

Two years later or in 2021, another prominent figure in the city of San Fernando, businessman Ruben Feliciano, was killed outside his home in Barangay. Apas, Cebu City.

READ: Former mayoral candidate is Cebu City’s first shooting victim of 2021

Feliciano was among the suspects in the Reluyas’ ambush. He cooperated with the investigation and even came forward to the police to clear his name a few days after the incident.

He has strongly denied the allegations and to date his alleged connection to the ambush has not been proven.

On the other hand, investigators are also digging deeper into the Baringui-an couple’s background, including their alleged connections to online sabong and frustrated murder charges pending.

“We are still reviewing and verifying these reports,” Soriano added.

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