By Eden Eve Lacea

PHOTO: Philippine Nikkei Jin Kai Inc./World Finance

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the country’s longest serving prime minister who greatly strengthened his country’s ties with the Philippines, was shot dead during a political campaign in front of the Yamato Saidaiji Station in Nara City, Japan on July 8, 2022.

According to police reports, Abe collapsed and suffered from bleeding in the middle of a speech after two gunshots were heard.

Authorities were able to apprehend the suspect named Yamagami Tetsuya, a 41 year old Nara City native who was also a former member of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Further investigation by the authorities revealed that the weapon used on the assassination was a handmade gun.

Yamagami confessed to the investigators that he had personal grudges against the 67-year-old former prime minister and always had plans to kill him. However, he denied that the shooting had any relation to the upcoming Upper House elections on the 10th of July.

The former prime minister was rushed to Nara Medical University Hospital after the incident, but emergency officials said that he did not have any vital signs after sustaining two gunshot wounds in the neck, as well as an injury to a heart vessel.

His death was declared at 5:03 in the afternoon due to blood loss.

Incumbent Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed great sorrow on the news of the late prime minister’s death, and also called for the protection of the country’s democracy.

“We lost a great leader who loved the nation, looked to the future and made great achievements in various fields for the future of this country,” said the prime minister while in tears.

“We must defend free and just elections, which are at the root of democracy. I will say this to the people until the very last moment of the campaign,” he added.

Despite the controversial shooting incident, Japan follows strict gun laws resulting in rare gun-related incidents. In 2021, authorities had reported only 10 gun incidents with one death.

The world in shock

Various prominent individuals around the world expressed deep concern over the shooting incident, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Republic of China (Taiwan) President Tsai Ing-wen.

“Deeply distressed by the attack on my dear friend Abe Shinzo. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family, and the people of Japan,” wrote Prime Minister Modi in a Twitter post.

“Taiwan and Japan are both democratic and law-based countries. On behalf of our government, I strongly condemn violent and illegal acts,” President Tsai Ing-wen also expressed on her official Facebook page.

In response to Abe’s assassination, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed his sympathies to Japan for the passing of a “visionary leader who saw Japan through its most difficult times.”

“Mr. Abe was a visionary leader who saw Japan through its most difficult times. He was a devoted friend and a supporter of the Philippines, and it was during his leadership that the Philippine-Japan relations truly flourished,” Marcos said.

Former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also expressed his condolences, quoting strong ties between Japan and the Philippines during his term.

“Abe was a good and loyal friend, a staunch supporter of my administration and a strong ally of the nation. As the world mourns for the loss of this great man, we remember him for his compassionate service and remarkable leadership,” said the former president in a Facebook post by his spokesperson Martin Andanar.

‘An unprecedented event’

Waseda University political science professor Airo Hino quoted that the said shooting was unprecedented in Japan, where gun laws are said to be one of the strictest in the world.

“There has never been anything like this,” said the professor.

In 2007, a mayor of Nagasaki was also shot dead by a Japanese mafia member.

Additionally, the head of the Japan Socialist Party was killed during a speech in 1960 by a samurai short sword wielded by a young supporter of the right wing.

Records of attacks on several other postwar politicians were reported through the years, but did not acquire any fatal injuries.

Edited by Lance Arevada