MANILA, Philippines - Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III led a mass oath-taking of party members in various areas in Metro Manila yesterday.
Aquino was in the cities of Pasay, Parañaque and Marikina to swear in local members as well as meet with supporters as the party firmed up its dominance ahead of the May polls.
Aquino said many local leaders have already pledged allegiance to the LP and he is expecting the number of members to swell by March.
But Aquino and his running mate Sen. Manuel Roxas II said they also expect attacks on and harassment of LP members to intensify as the party attracts more supporters.
The LP has raised concern over the killings of its members and supporters as well as the suspicious reshuffling of police directors apparently in time for the elections.
Meanwhile, Roxas appealed to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the spate of election-related killings of LP local candidates and supporters even as he aired concerns over what he said could be an escalation of violence against opposition candidates.
In his letter to CHR chairperson Leila de Lima, Roxas requested for “assistance in the investigation and monitoring” of the killings in the countryside of LP local candidates.
“As a senator and president of the Liberal Party, I am terribly saddened and deeply alarmed by these incidents, happening as they did in the run-up leading to the May 2010 elections,” Roxas said.
“These murders could only be the kick-off to organized violence against opposition candidates and supporters in order to frustrate their participation and election in the people’s exercise of civil and political rights, guaranteed by no less than our Constitution, as well as international covenants, treaties and laws,” Roxas said.
He also asked the CHR to update him or any LP official on any developments on the investigations.
“As the constitutionally mandated independent office tasked to, among others, investigate all forms of human rights violations, including transgressions against civil and political rights through murder and violence, I have no doubt that your intervention in these election-related violence would certainly ensure that truth, fairness, and impartiality will prevail, paving the way for the prosecution of the persons responsible,” he said.
The LP candidates and supporters who have been murdered in separate attacks are Motalliden Pacman “Steve” Tapodoc, LP candidate for councilor in the town of Labangan in Zamboanga del Sur; Hadja Anira Abdulah Agcong, LP mayoral bet for Labangan municipality; Rascal Afdal, casual employee of the Labangan municipality and a known LP supporter; Rose Pajente, operations manager of the National Food Authority in Zamboanga del Sur and a known LP supporter; Bong Dizon, coordinator of the Noynoy Aquino for President Movement in Mexico, Pampanga; and lawyer Connie Brizuela, an LP volunteer who was among the 57 victims in the so-called Maguindanao massacre.
Meanwhile, the LP welcomed the issuance of an injunction by a Capiz judge against the replacement of provincial police director Senior Superintendent Josephus Angan without consultation with and approval by the provincial government.
Judge Edward Contreras of Regional Trial Court Branch 17 of the Roxas City 6th Judicial Region ordered Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa to stop the installation of Senior Superintendent Primo Golingay or any other police official as the new provincial police director.
Capiz Gov. Victor Tanco hailed the decision and vowed not to yield to alleged machination by the Arroyo administration and its allies to sabotage an opposition victory in the May 10 national and local elections.
He asked Puno and Verzosa to honor the court’s ruling and not ignore it, as they had done in Cavite where they reportedly pursued the reassignment of the provincial police director Senior Superintendent Alfred Corpuz despite a temporary restraining order issued by the court.
The LP said the Arroyo administration is setting the stage for massive cheating in the elections with its revamp of local police chiefs without the knowledge of local executives.
Meanwhile in Davao City, Aquino led in a local survey of presidential candidates conducted by the University of Mindanao Broadcasting Network’s “Pulso ng Bayan” program.
The survey, which had 2,954 respondents, was conducted from Jan. 11 to 23.
Aquino got 36.4 percent, followed by former President and Puwersa ng Masa standard-bearer Joseph Estrada with 27.3 percent, and Nacionalista Party bet Sen. Manuel Villar with 15.1 percent.
Roxas topped the survey for vice president with 47.6 percent, followed by Sen. Loren Legarda with 15.7 percent and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay with 12.5 percent.
In the survey for mayoral candidates, Vice Mayor Sara Duterte garnered 65.9 percent against Speaker and first district Rep. Prospero Nograles’ 16.9 percent.
Meanwhile, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who is running for vice mayor, got 68.3 percent as against his opponent, former mayor Benjamin de Guzman’s 13.7 percent. - Aurea Calica and Edith Regalado