Voting in Cebu peaceful despite incidents
(The Freeman) - May 9, 2016 - 10:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Elections Day yesterday was not uneventful, but it was a considerably peaceful one where no lives were lost due to election violence from the time voting precincts opened at 6 a.m. to the time they closed at 5 p.m.

Police Regional Office-7 Director Patrocinio Comendador Jr., said at the start of the voting until it ended they received no report of violence in the precincts.

Though their assessment is not yet final since they had to secure the canvassing, he was confident that they would be able to secure the elections.

Colonel Arnulfo Matanguihan, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines 302nd Brigade, said they had also deployed enough soldiers to keep the peace.

Ida Cabantan of the Department of Education said they got no report on untoward incidents that involved the 19,000 Board of Election Inspectors.

In Dumanjug, Cebu, though, bullets were allegedly exchanged between supporters of bitter rival Mayor Nelson Garcia and Vice Mayor Efren Guntrano Gica around 9 p.m. last Sunday.

Both candidates claimed they were the aggrieved party.

Garcia reported that his councilorial candidate Ely Amadora and "supporter" Jerome Saromines were onboard their motorcycles when a black car tailed them until the front gate of Garcia's house.

Those inside the vehicle allegedly suddenly began firing. Amadora and Saromines managed to get inside Garcia's house, but Saromines allegedly sustained a graze to his right leg.

Garcia said Amadora and Gica had an argument before the incident happened.

Gica, however, showed to the media a closed-circuit television footage showing Garcia's men standing at the gate were the ones who fired shots at Gica's security agency driver and a friend of his brother.

At the start of the video, six men were shown standing at the gate of Garcia's house. The six got inside as a black vehicle and a motorcyle came to a halt in front of the house. The driver got off the vehicle and proceeded to the rear along with another man in black long sleeve when one of the men behind the gate fired at them.

The driver suffered a graze in his abdomen and was brought to the district hospital in Barili. He was later discharged but was "under observation." Gica said his men were not armed.

In a separate interview, Dumanjug Police Station chief Rogelio Amoroso Jr. said they already launched an investigation.

He said they could not determine yet which group started the shooting since the video was not supported by audio and not all actions of the persons involved were captured by the footage.

"Di nato makita if nagpabuto ba gyod tong naa sulod sa sakyanan," he added.

He, however, disclosed that Saromines was identified as a member of a private armed group but was not facing criminal charges.

Garcia's brothers, former congressman and candidate for 7th district congressman Pablo John and gubernatorial candidate Winston, defended him.

Pablo John blamed the incident on the alleged failure of the local police to maintain peace and order in the town due to "partisanship."

He alleged that the policemen have become personal guards of the Liberal Party.

Winston, on the other hand, offered a P50,000 reward for every armed man arrested, and P200,000 for any candidate.

Amoroso, though, denied the partisanship allegation, acknowledging that such was part of the risks of their work.

"We always assist both parties," he said.

Dumanjug is among the eight Cebu towns included in the elections watch-list because of its history of election-related violence and intense political rivalry.

The mayoralty post is being contested by Garcia of One Cebu and Gica of the Liberal Party.

Asked about the Dumanjug incident, Comendador yesterday said they were still validating if it was politically-motivated.

For his part, Commission on Elections-7 Director Jose Nick Mendros said they would wait for Comendador's recommendation on the matter.

"There is no reason yet to elevate Dumanjug (town) to another level. We will not be preventing it, but we will not be pushing it. We will base it on any recommendation," Mendros said during yesterday's press conference organized by the media advocacy group Cebu Citizens-Press Council.

Meanwhile, Comendador also confirmed a strafing incident Sunday morning involving supporters of candidates in Tabogon town.

Somosa Barangay Captain Andrew Nolasco suffered bruises and contusions in his effort to avoid two unidentified men who allegedly fired high-powered guns at them. He believed the two men were sent by political opponents of incumbent Tabogon Mayor Zigfred Duterte, whom he was supporting.

Comendador, though, said the incident was likely intended to simply intimidate Nolasco.

In Tuburan town, Senior Inspector Leo Logroño said they received a trouble alarm yesterday in in Barangay Caridad but when his men arrived not one of two men involved were still around.

Logroño said the both men were queuing up outside a polling precinct when a commotion ensued.

In Barangay South Poblacion, San Fernando, four persons were arrested early dawn yesterday at a joint checkpoint along the national highway.

The police identified the four as Mark Zapanta Genterone, 30, and Joan Batersal Blanco, 34, both of Barili, Cebu; Leonard Joseph Zapanta Alicaway, 27, of Guadalupe, Cebu City; and Leecille Flores Vergara, 20, of Sta. Ana, Barili, Cebu.

Police Officer 2 Jose Cliare Palagtiosa told The FREEMAN that the four were riding a brown multicab (ABN 8324) when they were stopped at the checkpoint.

Palagtiosa said the four  yielded a homemade Ingram with silencer, gun magazine with 16 9mm pistol bullets; a .45 pistol with a magazine loaded with bullets; a 9 mm pistol with five bullets in a magazine; an elongated plastic with assorted "drug paraphernalia"; and P20,440 cash.

Palagtiosa said they were not discounting the possibility that the guns were to be used during the elections.

He said that after the arrest of the four men, they received a call from Barili Police Station that there was a shooting incident there.

"Nakig-coordinate ta sa Barili after we arrested the four suspects but wa pay feedback," he said.

Genterone, Alicaway and Vergara would be facing a criminal complaint for violation of the Comelec gun ban in relation to illegal possession of firearms while Blanco would be facing an illegal possession of drugs paraphernalia complaint.

Palagtiosa said that during interrogation, Genterone admitted to be in possession of firearms while the rest of the suspects denied the allegations against them.

In Ginatilan, supporters of One Cebu candidates were accused of harassing Municipal Treasuer Jocelyn C. Magdadaro,53; and her assistants Zenith N. Redulla, 45; Edward Singco, 50; and Lourdes S. Gomez 60, around 11:45 p.m. last Sunday.

SPO2 Arnold Tumanya of Ginatilan Police Station said that the supporters uttered allegations that the municipal treasurer and her staff were doing something to the ballots to ensure that the incumbent Liberal Party candidates will win in yesterday's elections.

The supporters were identified as Liza Toledo and Karyn James Duterte.

The ballots are safe-kept at the treasurer's office of each town and city, which was charged to distribute them to members of the BEIs.

Inspector Carmelito Unabia responded to the situation together with Election Officer Reget Poloyapoy and his assistant Ma. Maddona Q. Ababon and explained that the official ballots were still properly sealed.

In Mandaue City, the police yesterday arrested a former chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency 7 (PDEA) K9 Division for allegedly brandishing a gun while inside the Mandaue City Central School.

The police recovered from Carlito Ermac of Barangay Alang-alang, Mandaue City a 9mm pistol loaded with 18 bullets.

Ermac was brought by the city's Special Tactics and Weapons team to the Mandaue City Police Office for questioning.

Ermac said he arrived at the school to vote when a guard, later on identified as Jemar Pasco, stopped him as vehicles were not allowed inside school premises.

Ermac said that since his wife, who was with him at that time, needed assistance, he requested the guard if it was possible to just allow them to get inside and then showed that he was with PDEA-7.

He denied he pointed a gun at Pasco as the latter even acceded to his request and allowed them inside the school. It was only when he went outside the school premises when the police came to bring him to the station.

"Wa man koy bayolenteng gihimo, igo ra ko mibotar," Ermac said.

He said he even went with the police peacefully as he did not want to cause a commotion in the area.

Pasco, for his part, said that when he asked Ermac if his wife was a senior citizen or was physically-challenged, Ermac allegedly showed him his PDEA ID and his gun.

"Ako siyang giingnan nga bawal ang sakyanan kung way senior citizen. Iya kong gipakita sa iyang ID, gisaka sad niya iyang armas," Pasco said.

He said he let Ermac and his wife in but he reported to a woman nearby that Ermac had a gun. It was the woman who called the police.

Superintendent Melbert Esguerra, head of MCPO's Investigation Detective Management Branch, said they will file complaints of violation of the Comelec gun ban and of illegal possession of firearm against Ermac, who was detained pending the filing of criminal complaints against him.

Esguerra said that while Ermac showed a gun ban exemption, it is only okay if the person in authority is in full uniform and is on duty.

In Compostela, a man was arrested after Mayor Joel Quiño complained that he took a picture of him while he (Quiño) was waiting to vote in a school in Barangay Poblacion.

Roberto Ariojo, 47, an alleged supporter of Quiño's political rival, mayoral candidate Ritchie Wagas, was detained yesterday after the mayor complained against him for unjust vexation.

Supporters of Wagas, though, told The FREEMAN that Quiño was not supposed to be in the school since he was supposed to cast his vote in another school and not there.

Compostela Election Officer Arvin Maghanoy, though, said that based on the information they gathered, Quiño was waiting for his turn to vote in the school.

"Asa man diay ko nila pabotaron?" Quiño said when told that Ariojo likely took his picture as "proof".

Maghanoy said they would focus first on the canvassing of votes before they would look into the matter. — Mylen P. Manto, Michael Vencynth H. Braga, Bryner L. Diaz, Dale G. Israel, May B. Miasco, Liv G Campo, Copy Editor AJ de la Torre-Orong and Hazel Grace T. Namit (FREEMAN)



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