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Manila - The vice mayor of a central Philippine town who works as the attorney of a suspected drug lord was killed on Monday in an ambush by unidentified suspects.

John Ungab, vice mayor of Ronda town in Cebu province, was shot dead by gunmen who blocked his car along a busy road in Cebu City, 577 kilometres south of Manila.

Ungab had just attended a court hearing with his client, suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, a police report said.

He was shot in the back of the neck and died in hospital, according to the report.

Espinosa, charged with illegal drug trade and distribution, was arrested in October 2016 in Abu Dhabi after President Rodrigo Duterte accused him and his father of trading illegal drugs and coddling traffickers or syndicates in their localities.

Espinosa's father, former mayor Rolando Espinosa, was killed in a police raid on his detention cell in Albuera town in Leyte province in November 2016.

Ungab is the second lawyer of the Espinosa family to have been killed. In August 2016, Rolando Espinosa's previous lawyer was shot dead in an ambush in Tacloban City in Leyte.

Duterte has said the Philippines could become a narco-state through the alleged involvement of dozens of politicians, police officers, judges and other officials in the illegal drug trade.

The president has vowed to continue his war on the illegal drug trade despite criticism over the high death toll and an International Criminal Court probe, announced on February 8, into alleged extrajudicial killings related to the campaign.