“Kahit si Mariang Makiling ay nakatalukbongPoet Jun Lit wrote in his tribute piece titled Luksa ang Bayan, dedicated to one mayor and painting a bleak image of a town in mourning.
ng malungkot, makapal na ulap –
mistulang tinabunan ang mga pangarap
wala ni pipíng kasagutang maapuhap.”
Residents of Los Baños, Laguna joined the family of former Mayor Caesar P. Perez in his wake at his home along Lopez Ave., one gloomy afternoon on December 4 as the town mourned the community’s loss. Even more so with supporters escorting him today, December 8, to the cemetery.
Lit ended his piece, envisioning townsfolk united to honor his legacy.
“Lagi at lagi kang pasasalamatan
At ang lahat ng iyong marami
at magagandang sinimulan
Ipagpapatuloy para sa kinabukasan.”
Perez was shot dead inside the Los Baños municipal hall on Thursday night, December 3. An initial report from the Laguna Provincial Police Office said that Perez was walking toward the receiving area of the municipal hall at around 8:45 PM when currently unidentified perpetrators shot him twice at the back of the head. Perez was immediately rushed to the hospital but was declared dead at around 9:45 PM after 30 minutes of reviving him failed.
Prior to his death, Perez had been receiving death threats since his inclusion in the “narco-list” – the government’s list of politicians with supposed links to the illegal drug trade. Perez and his family have denied his alleged involvement with illegal drugs.
“Bakit ano ba’ng pruweba? Dahil wala naman kaming tinatago so di kami nagisip na may mangyayari […] Maraming beses siyang sumagot, nagpadala ng sagot sa iba’t-ibang departamento ng gobyerno at this year or October nagpunta siya sa PDEA [Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency] para i-clear yung name niya. Hinigan siya ng drug test which is clear naman,” his son, Aldous said last Sunday.
These allegations surfaced while he was running once more for mayor last May 13, 2019, claiming that a political rival from 2007 was behind his inclusion in the list. He was reported to have submitted a position paper to both Malacañang and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in an attempt to set the record straight.
Three years prior, Perez’s younger brother, Ruel was also shot dead by unknown motorcycle-riding perpetrators.
Following the news of his death, residents were quick to pay tribute to their beloved mayor. Among them was Los Baños resident Angielyn Arlegui, who expressed her sorrow and condolences on the passing of Perez in a Facebook post.
“Makikita mo ang kanyang pananamit na parang ordinaryong tao lng, ikaw din ung mayor na nakita ko nag tatraffic enforcer sa gitna ng kalsada k[a]h[i]t na napakainit… Napakasakit, magpapasko pa naman. Alam ko andami mo pang plano sa ating bayan Palaisipan ang iyong pagkawala mayor,” Arlegui recalled, thanking Perez for progressing the city and remembering him for conceptualizing the Bañamos Festival, an annual celebration exclusive to the town.
Perez was elected mayor of Los Baños 2001 to 2010, served as Laguna vice governor from 2010 to 2013 and was re-elected mayor three more times in 2014, 2016, and 2019.
As mayor, Perez advocated against pollution in the Special Science and Nature City. In 2008, Los Baños would be the first-ever town in the Philippines to regulate and ban the use of single-use plastic bags and styrofoam.
Testifying to Perez’s positive reputation was Jay Rolusta, another Los Baños resident, who condemned the murder of Perez in his Facebook post.
“Gumawa ka ng kasaysayan bilang pinakamatayog na puno sa Los Baños. Ang iyong mga bunga ay pinakinabangan ng maraming tao. Pero sadyang may mga taong maiitim ang buto. Mga taong nagpapakalat na ikaw ay may lason, pero ang totoo’y sila ang naglason sa mga taong nagdesisyong ibuwal ka na ng tuluyan. Ibuwal ka nang walang kalaban-laban,” Rolusta said.
Rolusta only had one word to describe the perpetrators.
“Traydor. Traydor, hindi lamang ang nagbuwal sa’yo habang ikaw ay nakatalikod, kundi mas traydor ang mga utak sa likod nito. Dalangin nami’y mabigyan ka ng hustisya sa sinapit mo at managot ang mga taong nasa likod nito,” Rolusta added.
Utter disregard for judicial processes
In a statement, the University of the Philippines Los Baños said that the killing is “an affront to our dearly held respect for human rights” and called on the authorities to investigate the murder and bring the perpetrators to justice.
“We would also like to appeal to the residents of Los Banos to denounce this utter disregard for judicial processes as can be seen in the killing of Mayor Perez,” UPLB said
UPLB added that he was a “staunch ally of the university” and helped in implementing certain projects and activities for the campus. The statement continued by explaining that Perez was able to ensure that UPLB was crime free thanks to the municipal government of Los Baños coordinating with the barangays that were located close to the university.
Meanwhile, Laguna Governor Ramil Hernandez, who also visited Perez’s wake, expressed his condolences and condemened the murder in a Facebook post.
“Mariin kong kinokondena ang nangyaring pagpatay kay Mayor Perez at pinag-uutos ko ang masusing imbestigasyon ukol sa bagay na ito upang makamit ang nararapat na hustisya, “ Hernandez said
The Laguna provincial government also urged the public to respect Perez and his family by not sharing pictures of his body and remains.
Meanwhile, the Facebook page of the municipal government of Los Baños changed its profile picture to all black and expressed its condolences to the Perez family in a post.
“Subalit iba sa karanasan ng ating butihing Punumbayan CAESAR P. PEREZ, sa nagdaang mga araw simula ng siya ay lumisan. Ang akala marahil ay pagtatapos ng kanyang mga nasimulan ngunit ito ay magigng matatag na pagpapatuloy sa inaasam na maayos at maunlad na Los Baños,” the municipal government of Los Baños said.
On the day of Perez’s death, the municipality swore in Antonio Kalaw and Josephine Evangelista to fill the respective roles of mayor and vice mayor.
As of press time, no new details have surfaced on the progress of the investigation. [P]
Photo from Municipal Government of Los Baños / Facebook