A gunman with a semi-automatic pistol killed seven people and wounded 11 others during a drug-fuelled 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 revellers 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 reporters, 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 reporters.
“I wanted to go back. The children were crying for help, but what can you do, the man has a gun.”
Bae lived in a nearby house and most of the victims were his neighbours.
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 in which Kawit town is located.
Kawit police chief Superintendent Dionisio Borromeo also told reporters that “paraphernalia” used for methamphetamines, known locally as shabu, had been found at Bae’s home.
Borromeo said Bae had originally been looking for an rickshaw driver who lived in a shanty home behind the gunman’s house, but was not there at the time.
Bae then started started shooting randomly, according to Borromeo, although he said it was still unclear why the gunman had been hunting the driver.
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.
President Benigno Aquino spokeswoman said Friday’s killings emphasised the need to get unlicensed firearms off the streets.
“This incident will certainly fuel the efforts of the PNP (Philippine National Police) in its drive against loose firearms,” spokeswoman Abigal Valte said.