Kawit: A gunman armed with a semi-automatic pistol killed at least seven people and wounded 11 others as he rampaged through a slum on the outskirts of the Philippine capital on Friday, authorities said.
The ordeal, which took place in a rundown residential area and a market about 40 kilometres south of Manila, ended when the gunman died in a gunbattle with police, said investigating officer Arnulfo Lopez.
“It was random. He would fire at anybody who crossed his path,” Lopez told AFP.
A seven-year-old girl was one of the people killed, with four other children among the wounded, according to Lopez.
He identified the suspect as Ronaldo Bae, a middle-aged man who had once contested and lost an election for the post of local village chief. Initial police reports had identified the gunman as “Ronald Pae”.
Lopez said no motive for the killings had yet been determined, but residents told AFP Bae had been drinking heavily on Thursday night.
They said the rampage began near Bae’s home in a rundown part of Kawit town and nearby neighbours were among those killed.
“He was running swiftly and waving his gun... I told my children, and grandchildren to run,” Maita Lacorte, one of Bae’s neighbours and the aunt of the dead seven-year-old girl, told AFP.
Lopez said Bae shot dead the girl in her home.
Another neighbour, 56-year-old Alberto Fernandez, was also 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.
“He opened fire on the police. So a gunbattle ensued which resulted in the death of the suspect,” Lopez said.
Lopez said Bae had been using a .45 semi-automatic pistol. He said the four other confirmed fatalities were adults.
Bae’s household caretaker, identified as “John Paul”, accompanied Bae during his rampage and was seen reloading his gun, according to Lopez.
A manhunt had been launched for the accomplice, Lopez said.
Friday’s shooting comes amid a debate over the country’s lawless gun culture, which was sparked by the death of a seven-year-old girl who was shot in the head by celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve.
Stephanie Ella and her father were watching a fireworks display outside their home in a Manila suburb on Monday when a bullet, fired by a person welcoming in the New Year, hit her.
The death triggered outrage and condemnation of poor law enforcement that allows hundreds of thousands of unregistered firearms to be on the streets.
“This incident should not be allowed to become just another statistic,” Vice-President Jejomar Binay said in response to Ella’s death.
“We have enough laws to penalise, but the problem has always been in the enforcement of laws.”
Kawit district police chief 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.
There were 1.2 million registered firearms in the Philippines as of last year, according to data from the police firearms and explosives office.
There were another roughly 600,000 unlicensed firearms in circulation across the Philippines, according to the office’s records.