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Bucao denies claim he was behind raid

CEBU, Philippines - Talisay City Vice Mayor Alan Bucao yesterday denied he had a hand in the raid of former barangay Manipis chief Leovigildo Togonon’s house as insinuated by Togonon’s camp. The raid resulted to Togonon’s arrest.

“I just want to make myself clear that it had never crossed my mind,” said Bucao referring to Togonon’s claims that the vice mayor was behind his arrest last Sunday.

Togonon who is the current president of Arthurs Farmers Organization (AFO) was arrested last Sunday after a raid jointly conducted by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, the Special Reaction Unit (SRU) of the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) and the Regional Intelligence Division in his house in the upland village of Manipis.

The team seized from his possession an unlicensed shotgun with 12 live ammunition and a .9mm with 20 live ammunition.

Bucao said the search was by virtue of a warrant duly issued by Regional Trial Court branch 10 presiding judge Judge Soliver Peras, and not by a mere tip from anyone, not even himself.

Togonon had pinpointed Bucao, whom he has started a conflict with when the latter was elected AFO president in 2008, as the one who allegedly got him arrested.

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A week before his arrest, it was the former village chief who reported to the police of the alleged sighting of Bucao’s “armed vanguards,” to which the vice mayor has denied, saying it was just another of Togonon’s “lies.”

Bucao alleged that Togonon just wants “to control” the whole timberland area, that he even claims stewardship to areas that have already been awarded to other small farmers.

This claim was corroborated by Manipis barangay chief Joselito Laurente who accused Togonon of selling the land rights of other farmers to rich individuals.

The timberland in Manipis and its neighboring barangays comprise of more than 1,000 hectares of government-owned land, which in the early 90’s was awarded to small farmers there.

Togonon has been president of the farmers’ organization for several years already, and he admitted, in an interview, with The Freeman, that he has also been awarded a vast area of the timberland, that even Bucao’s almost 2-hectare property is within his area.

Bucao like all other prominent names in Talisay City has admitted to owning the rights of a parcel of the timberland. He was even elected AFO president in 2008, replacing Togonon’s several years of leadership.

Last December however, an election was held, Togonon being voted to the post again. Bucao said he only promised to serve a full year term, hence, he did not run again in the last election, which apparently he was also not allegedly informed.

It was during Bucao’s one-year term when the conflict started, with Togonon still refusing to acknowledge the vice mayor as the group’s president.

Togonon, in a separate interview, claimed that Bucao’s term was not legitimate because in the first place the members and the board of directors had not even met him once. He alleged that Bucao and Laurente have been conspiring so that the other farmers would turn their backs on him. He said the rampant illegally logging which Laurent has implicated him to, was reportedly the barangay chief’s work himself, just so his association with the organization would be cancelled because of such gross violation of the contract.

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