Monday, December 9, 2013

Tension mars ABC polls in NE town as 2 barangay chiefs resist arrest

SAN ANTONIO, Nueva Ecija – Tension marred the elections for the municipal presidency of the Association of Barangay Chairmen (ABC) in this town when two barangay chairmen resisted lawmen trying to arrest them, sparking a commotion and prompting a walk-out by six of their colleagues here Monday.

          The incident broke out at around 8 am Monday when lawmen from the San Antonio police served the warrants for the arrest of barangay chairmen Anacoreta Santos of Barangay San Jose and Roy Juliano of Barangay Sta. Barbara for the crimes of murder and frustrated murder and grave threat, respectively.

          The two barangay officials who, police said were in hiding for several days, finally surfaced at the Sangguniang Bayan session hall where the ABC polls were to be held when accosted by the lawmen.

          At the time the lawmen came in, 16 barangay chairmen were already inside the hall to take part in the elections.

Aside from Santos and Juliano, they were barangay chairmen Sonny Garces of Sto. Cristo, Pablo Torres (Hulo), Jojo Pomeda (Panabingan), Celia Cayman (Maugat), Sally Mendoza (Buliran), Rainier Umali (Lawang Kupang), Ome Macatunao (Tikiw) and Pepe Gante (Cama Juan), all allies of Mayor Antonino Lustre; and Tuque Zapata (Poblacion), Amang Carpio (Luyos), Turne Miranda (Sta. Cruz), Ojie Dionisio (Papaya), Eddie Ostanes (San Francisco) and Arcie Cruz (San Mariano), who were all supporters of Lustre’s rival, ex-mayor Arvin Salonga.
Chief Inspector Marcelino Veneracion, police chief, said they were merely obeying lawful orders by the court. “We just implemented the warrants of arrest issued by the court, nothing else. Our actions had nothing to do with the elections,” he said.

          Earlier, provincial police director Senior Superintendent Crizaldo Nieves issued a memorandum ordering Veneracion to enforce the twin court orders for the arrest of the two barangay executives.

          Santos’ arrest was ordered by Gapan City Regional Trial Court Branch 35 Judge Mildred Villaroman for murder and frustrated murder. No bail was recommended for the murder case while a bail bond of P200,000 was recommended for the frustrated murder case.

          Juliano’s arrest was ordered by San Antonio Municipal Trial Court Judge Voltaire Venturina for grave threats with recommended bail of P6,000.

          Lustre said Juliano is also serving a 60-day preventive suspension for abuse of authority and gross misconduct slapped on him by the Sangguniang Bayan for allegedly verbally abusing and driving away people from the barangay hall.

          Vice Mayor Jose Balagtas said Juliano’s suspension took effect just last December 5 after the SB conducted the investigation and the issues have already been “joined,” meaning he was asked to explain his side.   

          Balagtas explained the suspension - which will last up to February 3, 2014 - was meant to prevent Juliano from using the powers of his office to intimidate witnesses and influence the outcome of the investigation.

Surrounded by their supporters, the two barangay officials however, resisted their arrest.

          Lawyer Arnold Castro, legal counsel of the two, confronted the arresting lawmen and said the warrants should have been served after the elections.

          The stand-off lasted for three hours, prompting Nieves to dispatch operatives of the provincial public safety company (PPSC) to rush to the scene to carry out the arrest.      

The 20-man PPSC team, led by Inspector Joey Cabating, succeeded in convincing the two barangay officials to go with them, but not after Zapata’s group walked out of the session hall. They were detained at the police stockade.

          The elections went on with Garces getting elected as ABC president.

          Veneracion defended the presence of Cabating’s group, saying an augmentation force was necessary to ensure that the arrests of the two were peaceful and orderly.

          He said they have been conducting surveillance operations on Santos and Juliano long before their arrests. (Manny Galvez)

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