Saturday, April 13, 2013

Election Violence Looms in Marinduque

 "...warlords and oligarchic family clans, have led to mass poverty, deepening class inequalities and social polarization.  The elites are unwilling to tolerate any challenge or movement for change." - Axis of Logic  

Physical attacks on campaign meetings, homes, and vehicles of candidates and supporters, abductions and killing of certain political figures and other forms of intimidation and coercion are some of election-related violence in the offing in Marinduque as disclosed to the police and local officials by a disgruntled group of hired goons yesterday, April 12.

The said group who arrived in Marinduque on March 8 from Palawan was recruited by a certain ‘Nick’, identified as Joselito Chua associated with Sta. Cruz mayoralty candidate of the Liberal Party, Wilfredo Red.  The group led by a Joel Ohayas of Brgy. Inagawan, Sub-Colony, Puerto Princesa City together with four other recruits from Palawan escaped from a safehouse in Brgy. Matalaba of the said town, as they feared for their lives. Ohayas and his companions voluntarily surrendered to the local police and to incumbent Sta. Cruz Mayor Percival Morales for protection after things turned sour for them. Morales is running under the banner of National Unity Party (NUP), the party of Cong. Lord Allan Velasco.

According to a sworn statement, the group was met by Chua at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), and proceeded to Marinduque by boat via Lucena. The deal was purportedly to provide security to campaign leaders of Red and to harass supporters from Red’s enemy camp. They were offered P 150,000 for the Marinduque job “manalo o matalo si Red”, and were initially paid P 5,000 each for their families before leaving Puerto Princesa. Nick promised additional payment upon arrival in Marinduque.

The promised additional initial amount was not paid and they were made to stay in a safehouse like prisoners for more than one month, sleeping on the floor without mattresses nor cover, surviving on rice and sardines and not permitted outside, Ohayas said. They were just asked to simply wait for the right time when they would be needed, he said. The names of the other companions of Ohayas were Jiony Quintano, Resty Mejico, Ricky Costales and Ramil Iligan, all of Puerto Princesa.

Ohayas, acting as the group’s leader also told police that he was shown around the province by Chua for the exact location of houses of certain candidates in Torrijos and Sta. Cruz and those of their leaders for a planned operation.

At this point, it was made clear to Ohayas by Chua that their real purpose in coming to Marinduque was “kita-patay” with two supporters of Morales as the first target, Ohayas said.

According to Ohayas, he was the only one who had the opportunity to leave the safehouse from time to time having been detailed as bodyguard of provincial board member and candidate Harold Red. Red is one of LP candidates for board member. 

On one occasion, Ohayas said he was asked to take charge of transferring some firearms from the board member’s house in Sta. Cruz to the house of former mayor Red. These firearms, he said, consist of two baby armalites, three 45 caliber pistols, one M16 and one 9MM.

Ohayas said he was issued a 9MM by Harold Red but returned the same to Red on March 19. It took Ohayas about two weeks to inform his companions about the new plan, a deviation from their original agreement, he said. “Hindi naman kami pumunta dito para pumatay”, Ohayas said. It was then that the group concluded they were being duped and worse, there was a strong possibility that they would end up being dead victims in a plan to sow fear and chaos in Marinduque, he said. Thus, their decision to disclose to police what they knew, he said.

The group likewise disclosed that they have come to learn from conversations with Chua that at present, eleven other groups of goons started arriving in Marinduque since January and are already fielded in various locations. Ohayas’ group got very suspicious when they were advised that they would be the last to be fielded for a special task. 

“Hindi naman kami armado, ni itak ay walang binibigay sa amin. Paano namin ma-protektahan man lamang ang sarili namin. Kaya maaring kami talaga ang ipain para itumba”, Mejico, a member of the group told police.

The five men are now in the custody of the Sta. Cruz PNP.

Marinduque Goon Lairs

In a related development, various reports have been received about private armies equipped with high powered firearms staying in identified locations all over Marinduque. Such places include Brgy. Lupac in Boac, Brgy. Bacong-Bacong in Gasan, Brgy. Banahaw in Sta. Cruz and the two islands of Natangco in Mogpog and Salomague in Sta. Cruz. The safehouses where the armed goons are staying are owned by local candidates including the safehouses in the two islands.

Election-related incidents are also expected to rise in Marinduque as Liberal Party congressional candidate Regina Ongsiako Reyes continues to stage her bitter campaign sorties, following news about her disqualification by Comelec. The Comelec has recently ruled that Reyes cannot run as candidate in the next election for being a U.S. citizen and for residency issues. Reyes insists that Marinduquenos are being robbed of their right to choose their candidate as a result of the decision and has filed a motion for reconsideration.

Reyes is running against incumbent congressman Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco of the National Unity Party (NUP).

Marinduque’s political landscape has been ruled by the Reyes family for nearly four decades. The province has remained a 4th class province, and is now considered the poorest in the region.