By: Francis Allan L. Angelo and Jennifer P. Rendon
THE campaign team of Iloilo gubernatorial bet and fourth district Rep. Ferjenel Biron accused top PNP officials in Western Visayas and the province of turning the police into the private army of his rival.
Lemuel Fernandez, Birons chief of staff, said that while they respect police officers, we appeal to the PNP to remain neutral and refrain from being used by politicians.
Biron is running against Arthur Defensor Jr., son of incumbent Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr.
We are confident to win the election despite the harassments by the PNP which we are documenting. The PNP has become the goons of Defensor. They are deployed to the bailiwicks of Cong. Biron on orders of Brigadier General John Bulalacao. In the first district, our supporters are being followed by supposedly cops in unmarked vehicles. Gen. Bulalacao has turned the PNP into Defensors private army, Fernandez said.
The PNP regional command said it deployed cops in northern and southern Iloilo to curb alleged vote buying incidents.
But Fernandez said the PNP is being selective by harassing and intimidating Biron identified candidates and leaders.
In the towns of Sara and Concepcion, there is rampant vote-buying by people identified with the other camp but the police dont lift a finger against them. They are only singling out people who are campaigning and organizing with our election day teams, especially precinct watchers, he added.
Fernandez also slammed the deployment of a Special Weapons and Tactics team to the ancestral house of the Birons in Barotac Nuevo on May 10.
He also cited that the PNP, especially the Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO) headed by Colonel Marlon Tayaba, applied for search warrants against Birons candidates and leaders in the province, but none for the Defensor side.
The Defensors are accusing us of being abusive. But if you use the police to harass and intimidate your opponent, who is abusive and oppressive now? Again, the Biron campaign has the utmost respect for the PNP, but we are appealing for neutrality on their part.
Former congressman Rolex Suplico, a member of Birons legal team, recounted how they felt with the presence of military personnel deployed in the fifth district, especially the town of Sara, Iloilo.
The fear of a gun in the hands of another person is great, intimidating. Everywhere we go to organize our election day team, like the watchers, we are being followed. They must pull out the military or else there will be no credible elections on May 13, Suplico said.
Suplico said they saw military soldiers sitting in the backyards of peoples home, creating an air of fear and intimidation. He also questioned if the military coordinated with the PNP and Commission on Elections in going around the town.
The procedure is that the PNP should take the lead. The military should also coordinate with the PNP and the Comelec, he added.
Suplico said they are praying for a peaceful and orderly election today amid the alleged intimidation they are facing.
NO REASON TO BE BIASED
In an interview with Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, Tayaba said the IPPO has no reason to favour any candidate.
What will it gain us if we favor one candidate? We are only following orders from the higher ups to curb vote buying and election violence, Tayaba said.
Bulalacao also debunked claims that they are favoring the Defensors over Biron saying it just so happened that most of the information they got are all against Biron.
Had they received info against other candidates, he said they would also act on it.
As regards alleged vote buying incidents, Bulalacao said to accuse is one thing but to substantiate is another.
The head of the Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 asked informants to substantiate their complaints.
Bulalacao said he received numerous complaints over his personal mobile phone number since last week. But it appears that these complaints would remain as such.
Bulalacao said the alleged vote buying activities were relayed to him through text messages, coupled with photos and videos.
However, the mere photos and videos will not substantiate anything, he said.
First, the complainant must prove that there is a promise of anything of value in return for voting a candidate.
Certain requirements must be met for an act to be considered as vote buying.
Under the guidelines, vote buying activity involves, giving, offering or promising money or anything of value to favor a candidate.
It will also be considered if someones gives or promises any office or employment, franchise or grant public or private; gives or offer expenditure directly or indirectly or cause an expenditure to be made to any person, association, entity, or community; and the act was done to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for against any candidate, Bulalacao said.
Pictures of money and other things of value circulated through social media will not suffice.
These will not prove anything. Kailangan may magbibigay sa amin ng statement claiming he was promised by this candidate in exchange for his vote or di kaya he was given this amount in exchange for his votes, he said.
By far, no complainant has issued an official statement that will trigger a criminal case.
While the people might know who are behind the vote buying activities, key elements are needed for the filing of case.
For those who claimed that they witnessed alleged vote buying activities, they could do citizens arrest, Bulalacao said.
In Western Visayas, Bulalacao said there have been alleged vote buying activities in Iloilo province.
Mostly, these allegedly happened in the first and fifth districts of Iloilo, he said.
But lately, Bulalacao said hes also receiving reports of vote buying activities in certain areas of Capiz, Guimaras, and Negros Occidental.