MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine village watchman mistook an actor for a real masked gunman, jumped onto his moving motorcycle, and fatally shot him in what witnesses thought was part of the filming, the police and another actor said on Monday, Nov. 1.
As the director shouted “Action!,” actor Kirk Abella began to speed away on a motorcycle with a masked driver and the watchman feared he was going to escape, said community police chief Alexis Relado of central Cebu city’s Parian district. So he grabbed him by the shirt and shot him, Relado said.
Many street killings in the Philippines, including those of political activists and journalists, have been perpetrated by motorcycle-riding gunmen.
Dozens of people were watching the filming of the British movie “Going Somewhere” late Saturday.
They thought the shot they heard was part of the movie, Relado added.
Victor Sablada, who acted as the motorcycle driver, said village watchman Eddie Cuizon introduced himself as a police officer. “I told him, ‘Buddy, we are just shooting,’ ” he said.
As Sablada revved up the motorcycle and started to move, Cuizon jumped on the seat behind Abella and shot him point-blank in the back and fell on the street, Sablada said. Abella, mortally wounded, slumped to the ground, his body hitting a lamp post, Sablada said.
“He died in my arms,” he said.
Cuizon, 52, told police that he had been woken up by a concerned citizen who reported the presence of armed men in his community. Volunteer watchmen help police keep the peace, patrol the streets, and implement curfews. They are normally armed with batons and are not supposed to carry firearms.
He told police he saw two masked men on a motorcycle and approached them, but they sped away and he stumbled as he tried to stop them, injuring his knee. He fired at Abella when the actor pulled out a gun, which turned out to be made of plastic, Relado said.
Abella, 32, died at a hospital. Cuizon immediately surrendered to the police after he realized what had happened, Relado said. He added that the watchman is remorseful and wanted to apologize to Abella’s family.
“Going Somewhere” is being filmed by British theater and film director Alan Lyddiard in Cebu, Relado said.
Cleofe Escanillan, an elder sister of Abella, said her brother was a bit player and worked occasionally as a waiter. She said Abella recruited Sablada — his childhood friend. They were hired by a local film coordinator.
Sablada said it was just their second day on the job. On the first day, they rehearsed their parts — going to a roadside restaurant where Abella, acting as a vigilante, was to get off the motorcycle and shoot a group of men drinking beer before escaping. The deed was to be witnessed by a male foreigner who was supposed to be side-swiped by their motorcycle, he said.
Before the fatal shooting, Cuizon went to the police station to tell officers about the reported presence of armed men, and was informed the gunmen may be part of the film production. An officer accompanied him to the area anyway, which was behind the police station, “to protect the film shooting … in case there really were armed men in the area,” Relado said.
Cuizon was walking fast and reached the masked men on the motorcycle ahead of the officer, who told him the two were part of the cast.
“I don’t know why he still accosted them,” Relado said. “Just as he reached the motorcycle, the director signaled ‘Action.’ He thought they were going to escape. That’s why he grabbed [Abella] by the shirt and shot him immediately.”
Cuizon told the police that he had borrowed the pistol he used — a homemade .357 Magnum — but refused to identify the owner, Relado said.
Lyddiard’s Web site says the movie is about a fictional documentary filmmaker’s travails in Cebu, where he plans to make a movie about the first circumnavigation of the world by Ferdinand Magellan, whose voyage to the Philippines led to its colonization by Spain.
Lyddiard and members of his crew, including a Filipino woman who had arranged for police assistance with traffic and crowd control in Parian, could not be reached for comment. ♦