ORMOC CITY – A village chieftain of this city is now in critical condition while a Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Kagawad is injured after both were shot at by a still unidentified riding-in-tandem in Purok 1, Barangay Alta Vista, this city at around 10:30 A.M. on Wednesday (June 12).

The victims were identified as Punong Barangay Dennis Laurente, 43 years old, married, and SK Kagawad Hanna Toralba, 21, both residents of the said barangay.

Accordingly, the Ormoc City Police Office (OCPO) personnel immediately responded to said shooting incident after receiving a call from the OCPO Center for Anti-Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC), and upon arrival at the place of the incident, PB Laurente was already brought to the OSPA-FMC hospital by the barangay service multicab for immediate medical assistance, while Toralba was brought to Gatchalian Hospital.

Based on the police’s initial investigation, the victims were riding in a barangay service multicab while on their way to the city’s Superdome for the “Araw ng Barangay.” When they arrived at the place of occurrence, the riding-in-tandem overtook the service multicab and shot Laurente three times on different parts of his body, while Toralba got hit on the thigh part of her leg.

Upon learning of the incident, and while attending the “Araw ng Barangay” festivities, Leyte 4th District Representative Richard I. Gomez and Ormoc City Mayor Lucy Torres-Gomez expressed their strong condemnation of the said shooting incident, which drew support from fellow public officials.

Congressman Gomez urged Ormocanons, especially the barangay officials, to be united, be vigilant, not to fear, and fight back. “Kita nga mga Ormocanon gusto nako magbantay ta, dili ta mahadlok, laban ta. Kinahanglan magkahiusa ta,” said the Congressman.

On the other hand, City Mayor Gomez told the barangay officials to rise up to the challenge and do what is right as they were elected—not to be afraid and to be careful.

Mayor Gomez reminisced and reminded them how chaotic and dark Ormoc used to be, where it was even the drug capital of Eastern Visayas before former mayor and now congressman Gomez took office. According to the mayor, the Ormoc Development Team (ODT) took a chance to change the city. “Usa ra ang atong Ormoc, kinahanglan ato gyud panggaon, atong nindoton,” said Mayor Gomez.

Further, the mayor also challenged the barangay officials not to be complacent and to seriously fight the opponents, not just for themselves but for the barangay as well, saying, “Ayaw gyud mo pagsalig, kanang kontra inyo gyud tinud-on. And do not do it just for yourself; do it for your barangay.”

The Gomez couple already announced that they will give a PHP200,000.00 reward to anyone who can pinpoint the location of the gunman.

In addition, the city’s ex-officio Sangguniang Panlungsod Member (SPM) Engr. Esteban Laurente, president of the Liga ng mga Barangay (LNMB)-Ormoc, emotionally expressed his condemnation of the incident and mentioned that their family believes that politics was the motive for the shooting of his nephew.

As of this writing, a manhunt operation has now been launched against those responsible for shooting PB Laurente and SK Kagawad Toralba. By Gwen Maurillo (EV Mail June 10-16, 2024 issue)