MANILA, Philippines -- Unidentified gunmen ambushed a limousine carrying Philippines Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Emmanuel Pelaez Wednesday, seriously wounding him and killing his bodyguard instantly, police said.
It was the first attack on an official of the government of President Ferdinand Marcos in eight years.
The unidentified gunmen sprayed the former vice president's cream-colored limousine just 30 feet from his home in the posh suburb of Quezon with gunfire, pumping four bullets into his back and neck and 10 into the head and chest of his driver who slumped dead on the wheel.
Pelaez, 66, underwent emergency surgery and was pronounced out of danger.
He crawled from the bullet riddled car after the gunmen fled and called neighbors who carried him to the hospital, with three gunshot wounds to the back and one in the left arm, police said.
Moments before he was wheeled inside the operating room, Pelaez told Brig. Gen. Tomas Karingal, Quezon city police chief, 'General, what's happening to our country? I have no known enemies.'
Police said his unidentified assailants had waited in ambush in the swank New Manila residential district of Quezon City and sped away after the attack that riddled the car with bullets.
Police said the incident occured as Pelaez was driven home from a dinner given for Son Sann, prime minister of the newly formed Cambodian coalition government who was on a three-day visit.
Pelaez is a former senator and vice president. In 1978 he was elected to the Batasan Pambansa, the nation's legislature. He is also a member of the executive committee -- a 'super cabinet' which runs the day-by-day affairs of government.
Although Pelaez claimed to have no enemies, he has been locked in a bitter debate with a powerful political group that controls the coconut industry on which a third of the 50 million Philippine population depend for their livelihood.
Pelaez has strongly opposed the continued imposition of a levy on coconuts from which the the government draws funds for various coconut projects.
The depressed prices for coconut are a source of tension in the countryside, which the communist New Peoples Army is exploiting in a bloody guerrilla campaign to overthrow Marcos.
It was the first time a high official in the Marcos government has been the target of assassination since 1974, when presidential assistant Guillermo de Vega was gunned down inside Marcos' office.