BIZWOMAN, DRIVER HURT

08/05/2010 - Another ambush by motorbike-riding men has alarmed traders in Metro Cebu.
This time, the apparent target in the car was a businesswoman.

Debbie Yu, 55, was able to jump out of her Toyota Fortuner after shots were fired at her vehicle as the vehicle was about 300 meters from her office in sitio Pilit, barangay Cabancalan, Mandaue City.

The driver was in critical condition from gunshot wounds.

Two men on board a motorcycle suddenly appeared and fired at the driver's side about 8:30 a.m.

Yu suffered cuts and bruises in the face, after she hit her head in the pavement. Her driver, Sonny Boy Sandoval Mahilum, 28, was shot in the head, where the bullet remains lodged. He was in crtical condition last night.

The attack came two days after a former mayor of Compostela town was shot dead in his car by two men on board a motorcycle on Monday night. (See related story on page 2).

The series of bold shooting attacks on car-riding businessmen in Metro Cebu in recent months has caused grave concern over the peace and order situation, and its possible impact on tourism.

The police said they were looking at all possible angles in the attack including the possibility that the target may be the driver, a native of Cadiz City, and not Yu.

Yu is engaged in import-export and owned a lending firm in Mandaue City.

Senior Supt. Noel Gillamac, Mandaue city police chief, said the gunman fired only at the driver’s side.

“We can’t discount the possibility that the businesswoman was the target because the windows were tinted but with all the shots at the driver's side, we can also say the driver was the target,” he said.

Gillamac said the gunman may be hired killers.

Mahilum has been Yu's personal driver for seven years. His relatives, however, told the police that the driver had no quarrel with anyone.

Yu left her home in Maria Luisa Subdivision in Cebu City about 8:30 a.m. She was heading to her office in DRBG Import-Export Inc in sitio Riverside, barangay Canduman in Mandaue City.

Two men were waiting about 400 meters from the office. Witnesses said the two never got off the motorcycle, raising suspicion from residents nearby.

Debraliz Ygot said she went to the store nearby when she saw the two men.

She said she suspected trouble.

“I wanted to get the plate number but it was faded. I became suspicious because if they were waiting for someone, they would have stayed in front of a house. But they were there on the street,” Ygot said.

The motorbike-riding men approached the Toyota Fortuner as it neared. The backrider fired several times at the driver’s side, said PO3 Tirso Plania, Mandaue investigator.

The gun was a machine pistol, according to some witnesses.

The businesswoman was able to jump out of the vehicle, hitting her head on the pavement.

Mahilum continued driving up to the Cabancalan-Canduman Bridge before the Sports Utility Vehicle hit a backhoe, parked about 30 meters from Yu's office.

Police said a neighbor, Eric Arcilla, saw Yu and brought her to the hospital on his multicab. Mahilum, was later brought to the same hospital.

The police recovered nine empty shells of a 9mm pistol.

Gillamac said two theories are being pursued by the police - personal grudges and business conflicts.

A friend of Mahilum, who refused to be named, said the attack was unexpected.

“He had no enemies. It was so sudden. We were all shocked about it,” he said.

Some buisness leaders said the ambush could have farther implications.

“If this will not be solved by the police, it will affect greatly our local economy especially the tourism sector which is very sensitive about safety. No tourist will come if every now and then there are killings especially if they remain unsolved,” said Filipino Cebuano Business Club president Rey Calooy.

Cebu was recently recognized as the third best island destination in Asia by the internatinal travel magazine Travel + Lesiure.

Samuel Chioson, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, agreed, saying crimes like this would affect the economy especially that some investors would look at how fast law enforcers would solve a case.

“From the government, we want speedy resolution of the incident,” Chioson said.

Cebu Business Club president Gordon Allan Joseph said he was shocked at the ease with which these crimes were committed.

“How many more assassinations need to be committed before our local governments finally crack down on crime of all types?” he asked.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Eric Ng Mendoza said he was not sure if Yu was a member of the chamber.

He said more checkpoints are needed while the public should be more vigilant. (Cebu Daily News)

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