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Philippines court shooter ex-Manitoban, media say

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MEDIA in the Philippines are reporting that courtroom shooter John Pope was a former Manitoban who once wrote speeches for Tory backbenchers in the Gary Filmon government.

The Cebu Daily News said Pope stated in court documents he had "worked as a full time speechwriter and researcher for the provincial caucus of backbenchers in the ruling Progressive Conservative Party for the province of Manitoba in Canada."

Meanwhile, Inquirer Global Nation, a Manila-based newspaper, ran a photo of Pope's 2001 Manitoba driver's licence, which listed his birthdate as Jan. 1, 1946.

The Associated Press in Manila said a Canadian man facing charges of illegal possession of firearms opened fire in a Philippines courtroom Tuesday, killing two people and wounding a prosecutor before police fatally shot him.

"The suspect, John Pope, appeared in court in central Cebu city to face the charges when he pulled out a gun and shot a lawyer and a physician who filed a case against him, police said.

He then fired at a prosecutor in the hallway of the building before police fatally wounded him, said police Chief Mariano Natuel," AP reported.

The PC caucus could not confirm Tuesday evening that Pope had worked for the party during the Filmon years, but at least one veteran remembers a caucus employee by the same name,

"There was a man by that name that worked in PC caucus. I can neither confirm or deny it's the same man," said caucus spokesman Mike Brown.

"Nobody really knew him. One staff member remembered the name, but little more. He was on staff during the '90s, but it doesn't sound like he was here for a long time."

Bonnie Staples-Lyon, at one time press secretary for then-premier Gary Filmon, said neither she nor two former Filmon officials she contacted Tuesday evening remembered Pope.

Other Filipino media sources identified Pope as a Canadian national born in St. Cloud, Minn., and said he identified himself as a former journalist.

The AP reported regional police director Marcelo Garbo said Pope ignored orders to surrender and tried to fire at police.

The Philippine Star reported on its website Tuesday that Pope, who was in his 60s, was carrying two firearms -- a .357-calibre revolver, which he used to shoot the victims, and a .45-calibre pistol police later recovered from a bag he carried.

Police said they were investigating Pope's background.

Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs said Canadian officials were in direct contact with Philippine authorities and were providing consular assistance to Pope's family, the AP reported.

"Our deepest sympathies are with those affected by the terrible event in the Philippines," department spokeswoman Amanda Reid said.

Philippines media reported on Pope in 2011, when police held him on charges of illegal possession of firearms.

The physician killed in Tuesday's shooting accused Pope, his neighbour, of brandishing a weapon and threatening him and other residents of their condominium.

The Freeman, an English newspaper in Cebu, reported online Tuesday that Pope had been living in Cebu for 15 years and had been served with a deportation order late last year. The news outlet reported that he had not been deported before the shooting because he still had pending court cases.

The Cebu Daily News reported that a check with the Bureau of Immigration in Cebu showed Pope was a retiree visa holder and had been a resident of Cebu city for 14 years.

A former neighbour, who asked not to be named, said that sometime in mid-2000, Pope owned a condominium unit at Residenza Tuscania and Rafols lived in a townhouse inside the same residential compound at Barangay (village) Guadalupe in Cebu city, the Cebu newspaper said.

Rafols was then association president when Pope approached Rafols to complain about "something so crazy, so miniscule."

But Pope reportedly got mad when Rafols didn't act on his complaint. During an association meeting, Pope complained someone would knock on his door but when he opened it, no one was around.

The source said Pope told the association he suspected Rafols was the one annoying him.

To appease him, the association posted a guard outside his unit, but Pope still complained that the knocking continued.

A source said Pope would stone Rafols' townhouse, though Rafols maintained he never knocked on the door of the Canadian's condo unit.

Barangay captain Michael Gacasan of Guadalupe, said Rafols filed several complaints against Pope.

"They met at least three times in the barangay hall, but their dispute was never settled. So the barangay issued a certification to file action," he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The Cebu newspaper said complaints about Pope were filed with the Canadian Consulate in Cebu, which responded that a personal dispute was best left to authorities.

When reached by phone, the newspaper said Wednesday that Canadian consul Robert Lee declined to comment, on instructions of the Canadian Embassy in Manila.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 23, 2013 A5

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