BULLET-RIDDLED. The bullet-riddled car of Rhyolite Agregado Balili, executive assistant of the Polomolok town mayor in South Cotabato province, who was shot and wounded by motorcycle riding-in-tandem gunmen while entering the town hall premises on March 17, 2023. Mayor Bernie Palencia has offered a PHP500,000 reward for the arrest of the perpetrators. (Photo courtesy of Polomolok MPS)

KORONADAL CITY – Mayor Bernie Palencia of Polomolok town in South Cotabato province on Monday offered PHP500,000 reward for anybody who can provide information on the whereabouts of the culprits behind the attack on his executive assistant on March 17.

Palencia told reporters he could have been the target of the two gunmen who shot at close range his aide Rhyolite Agregado Balili, 49, a former town councilor.

“I believed I was the target,” Palencia told reporters Monday.

Balili was driving his car and was about to enter the town hall premises in Barangay Poblacion when shot by two motorcycle-riding gunmen.

He sustained gunshot wounds in various parts of his body, according to Polomolok police chief, Lt. Col. Joseph Forro III.

Forro said the victim remains in an undisclosed hospital in neighboring General Santos City.

The mayor said the shooting of Balili could be politically motivated.

“These could be the handiwork of my political arch rivals; they are sending a message,” he said in the vernacular, without naming names.

Palencia said he was told that two men selling roasted peanuts were seen taking videos of him during the opening program of the Women’s Month celebration.

Forro said no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, adding that security measures are in place to prevent similar incidents in the future.  

In January this year, three members of the Civil Security Unit of the Polomolok local government unit, including a former police major serving as its chief, were separately killed by still unknown perpetrators. (PNA)