Candidate for governor accuses De Venecia of betrayal

Last updated 05:54am (Mla time) 04/30/2007
DAGUPAN CITY — Vice Gov. Oscar Lambino accused Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. of betrayal for allegedly campaigning for his political opponent in the gubernatorial race in Pangasinan province.


“Imagine, I am the official candidate of the (administration Lakas-CMD) party but [De Venecia] is endorsing a different candidate. He is even the president of the party,” Lambino said.


De Venecia denied Lambino’s accusation, saying the province is a free zone “because all of the gubernatorial candidates belong to the administration coalition.”


“I am campaigning for all of them,” De Venecia told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of


Lambino is facing Dr. Jamie Eloise Agbayani, wife of outgoing Gov. Victor Agbayani, who is running as an independent candidate in a three-cornered gubernatorial fight that includes Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino Jr.


Espino has been endorsed by the Nationalist People’s Coalition and the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi), parties that are both allied with the administration.


Lambino said in De Venecia’s sorties in the province’s fourth district, the Speaker had been asking the people to vote for Agbayani.


De Venecia is running for reelection in the district against Dagupan City Mayor Benjamin Lim of the opposition PDP-Laban.


The fourth district is composed of this city, and the towns of Mangaldan, San Jacinto, San Fabian and Manaoag. Voters in Dagupan, being an independent component city, do not vote for a governor.


Lambino also said De Venecia had supposedly instructed a mayor to distribute Lakas-CMD sample ballots with Agbayani as the candidate.


“No, I did not do that,” De Venecia said.


He said Lambino visited him at his house here and “he asked for my help.”


“I even assured him that I will help him,” De Venecia said.


Lambino also said De Venecia has been applying “all sorts of pressures” on him even before he filed his certificate of candidacy.


“He had asked me to withdraw, giving the alibi that Espino might win if I did not withdraw,” Lambino said.


But Lambino said he was unfazed by De Venecia’s endorsement of Agbayani. Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon


Pichay claims he got Isabela’s support for being an Ilocano

Last updated 05:49am (Mla time) 04/30/2007
MANILA, Philippines — Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. Sunday claimed receiving the commitment of leaders from Santiago City in Isabela province to support his campaign for a Senate seat.


In a statement, Pichay said the support became evident during the Pro Pinoy Caravan that passed through Santiago City during its tour of Northern Luzon.


Pichay said the support came as a result of him being an Ilocano.


Pichay, the statement said, recently registered his Pro Pinoy Movement at the Securities and Exchange Commission to serve as a vehicle for his legislative agenda of reviving nationalism and pride in Philippine products.

Siblings compete in mayoral race

Last updated 05:57am (Mla time) 04/30/2007
CITY OF CALAPAN — As Mayor Aristeo Evangelista Atienza of the beach town of Puerto Galera is on his third and final term, three other members of his family have joined the mayoral contest.


They include two brothers, Francisco and Victorino Atienza (both independent), and a nephew, Dr. Hubbert Atienza Dolor (Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino).


Competing against them are Jaime Delgado (Lakas-CMD), Oscar Evangelista (Kampi) and Bayani Datinguinoo (Partido ng Masang Pilipino). Delgado’s brother Oscar was mayor for three terms before Atienza.


The incumbent mayor (Liberal Party) is now running for vice mayor against the incumbent vice mayor, Juan Ascan (Kampi), and Melchor Arago (Lakas-CMD).


Puerto Galera is a popular tourist destination known for its white sand beaches and scuba diving. It has a total of 14,112 registered voters. Madonna Virola, Inquirer Southern Luzon


Palawan execs oppose Comelec control plan

Last updated 06:01am (Mla time) 04/30/2007
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY — Top Palawan and city officials, in a rare show of unity, expressed opposition to plans to put the province and the city under the control of the Commission on Elections.


In a statement, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn said he and other officials led by Gov. Joel Reyes and Rep. Baham Mitra condemned the Comelec plan as “baseless and totally ill-advised as it places the peace and order situation in the province and city under a cloud of doubt.”


In a press conference, they said the Comelec plan was contrary to the actual situation and adversely affected the province’s tourism industry during the peak season.


“Everything is peaceful and orderly” in Palawan and Puerto Princesa, the officials said.


They cited records showing that after the restoration of democratic elections in 1988, elections in Palawan and Puerto Princesa had been orderly and peaceful.


“The Comelec will be committing a great disservice to the people of Palawan and Puerto Princesa and their foreign and local investors and, in particular, to the local tourism industry,” the statement said.


Reyes also declared full support for the candidacies of Mitra and Hagedorn, who are both reelectionists.


Reyes virtually running unopposed in the May elections.


Earlier, Puerto Princesa mayoral candidate Eduardo Matillano said he was behind the move to place the city under the control of the Comelec.


The retired top police official said his group was lobbying for the proposal to have credible and peaceful elections.


“We were worried the elections would not be peaceful, credible and clean,” Matillano said.


Hagedorn, in a political ad over local radio, said that any violence during the election period should be blamed on his rival, who, he alleged, had been recruiting “goons.”


The mayor earlier opposed Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos’ observation that Palawan, together with Nueva Ecija, was among the provinces deemed to be areas of concern because of “intense political rivalry.” With a report from Robert Bagalay, Inquirer Southern Luzon


Troops start casting ballots under absentee voting

By Joey A. Gabieta
Visayas Bureau
Last updated 06:32pm (Mla time) 04/30/2007
TACLOBAN CITY — The military personnel started their absentee voting on Monday, army officials in Eastern Visayas said.


But Lieutenant Colonel Lope Dagoy, commanding officer of the 19th Infantry Battalion, based in Kananga, Leyte, said the soldiers under him cast their votes “based on what their conscience dictates and not for other reasons.”


On Monday, soldiers in the region assigned under the 8th Infantry Division (8th ID), headed by Major General Armando Cunanan, also started casting their ballots under the absentee voting system at their respective camps.


However, soldiers belonging to the 43rd Infantry Battalion, based in Sogod, Southern Leyte, were not able to cast their votes yet as they were waiting for instructions from the Commission on Elections on the conduct of the election on absentee voting, said Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Lacurom, battalion chief.


The 8th ID is composed of three brigades and nine battalions. For security reasons, officials declined to give figures as to how many belonged to the division.


But the Comelec regional office records showed that about 15,000 had registered under the absentee voting system.


“Majority of them are soldiers,” assistant Comelec regional director Jose Nick Mendros said.


The members of the Philippine National Police and government personnel who are registered voters but could not vote during the May 14 elections due to their assignments are also eligible to vote under the absentee voting system.


Dagoy said those who failed to vote on Monday would have until May 6, the last day of voting for absentee voters.


Captain Mario Jose Chico, chief of the public division office of the 8th ID, belied allegations that government soldiers were ordered to cast their votes in favor of the administration-backed candidates.


“There were no such orders to us. We are free to select our chosen candidates we think can best serve the interest of our country,” Chico said.


He added that Major General Cunanan “encouraged us to exercise our right of suffrage by voting.”


The soldiers, who cast their votes inside their camps, only voted for candidates for the Senate and for partylist groups.


Mendros said the votes cast by the soldiers would be delivered and canvassed at their central office on May 14 at 3 p.m.


“The Comelec en banc would create a special board of elections inspectors, which would then canvass the votes under the absentee voting system,” he said.


Commissioner Florentino Tuason Jr. heads the committee on local absentee voting.

Police, soldiers to set up more checkpoints in Calabarzon

By Marlon Ramos
Southern Luzon Bureau
Last updated 08:32pm (Mla time) 04/30/2007
CAMP VICENTE LIM, Laguna, Philippines — The chief of the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon and Rizal) police ordered on Monday the setting up of more checkpoints in the region, with the assistance of the military, in the wake of election-related killings and attacks throughout the country.

Chief Superintendent Nicasio Radovan, Calabarzon police director, said his order for an intensified police visibility was meant to avert armed attacks linked with the coming local elections.

Radovan, however, said the situation in Calabarzon was more manageable when compared with other regions’ where rival political clans used armed groups to further their political clout.

He said they had yet to identify any towns in the area where political squabbles could lead into armed confrontations.

Radovan made the statement after attending a meeting with officials of the different police units in the region, representatives of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the officers of the Philippine Army units based in Calabarzon.

“The possibility of armed conflicts is very remote here in Calabarzon,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview.

Since the campaign period in the local elections started last month, at least 30 people have been killed and dozens others were wounded nationwide.

The latest victim of election-related violence was San Carlos City Mayor Julian Resuello of Pangasinan who died on Monday at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City where he was rushed after he was shot at close range while attending a beauty pageant in his home city on Saturday night.

Radovan said that in the next few days, local police units would set up additional checkpoints together with Army members.

He said they would need the help of the soldiers to increase their personnel manning the checkpoints.

Radovan maintained that the presence of soldiers in the checkpoints was approved by the Comelec.

Radovan said he already directed the five provincial police directors in Calabarzon to continue dialogues with the local candidates to prevent political rivalries from escalating into violence.

On another matter, he said that so far, they were not receiving complaints from politicians about the New People’s Army’s permit to campaign fees.

“This only shows that the NPA has lost its hold and support in the region,” he said.

He said aside from communist rebels, the police were closely monitoring the activities of robbery groups sometimes hired by unscrupulous politicians to threaten their rivals.

Meanwhile, Senior Superintendent Felipe Rojas, Laguna police chief, denied reports that they identified San Pablo City as an “area of immediate concern” after an incumbent councilor, who is running for vice mayor, survived an ambush last week.

Rojas said investigators were looking into the possibility that the murder try on councilor Edgardo Adajar on April 22 was just made up.

“The ambush on Councilor Adajar is not enough for us to put the entire city under Comelec control. We are not even discounting that it was just a staged ambush,” he said.

Muslim group issues guidelines in choosing candidates

By Ryan Rosauro
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 09:01pm (Mla time) 04/30/2007
ILIGAN CITY, Philippines — A Muslim non-government organization has issued guidelines to the voters of Lanao del Sur province in choosing their congressional representative.

In a one-page flyer titled “Qualities of a Muslim Representative to the Congress of the Philippines,” the group Al-Manar Philippines listed 15 attributes, 10 of which are in addition to the minimum qualifications set by the Constitution.

Al-Manar, which means beacon, classified the attributes as minimum qualities, desirable or recommended qualities, necessary or indispensable qualities, and compulsory qualities which are based on the Koran.

To qualify as a congressional representative, Section 6 of Article VI of the Constitution provides that one must be a natural born citizen, able to read and write, at least 25 years of age, a registered voter in the district, and a resident in the district for about a year.

The Al-Manar guidelines provide the additional qualifications for a Muslim congressional representatives: must be strong in faith, health and knowledge of Islam, and trusted. These comprise the compulsory qualities.

The indispensable qualities include: being a lawyer “or equivalent,” knowledge of the Sharia’ah law and of relevant and contemporary issues wanting legislations. It said one must not be dependent on advisers or consultants in the conduct of one’s legislative work.

The group also listed the following as desirable qualities: capable to participate effectively in debates and deliberations in the plenary session and in committee hearings; independent and quick thinker; ability to “talk with sense and weight” that can convince others; and ability to outline a proposed legislative measure and defend the same before Congress colleagues.

Al-Manar is encouraging voters to choose the candidate that has the most number of qualities it set out in the guidelines.

The set of guidelines was distributed to voters even before the period of campaigning for local posts started, said lawyer Udtog M. Tago, executive director of Al-Manar Philippines.

Based in the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City, Al-Manar is primarily composed of professionals and ulama (religious leaders).

Tago said the guidelines were formulated in support of the campaign of Muslim activists to rid elections in Lanao del Sur of fraud.

He explained that it was important for voters to know the work of a congressional representative and hence, “the qualities of the person to whom we give our mandate.”

Armed with such basic knowledge, voters would be able to pick candidates perceived to “ensure our best representation in Congress, and not just vote for one who has given the highest amount,” according to Tago.

“Our choice will surely reflect the kind of people we are,” the Al-Manar guidelines warned.

With over 270,000 voters, Lanao del Sur is comprised of two congressional districts. Its local elections have been notorious for fraud and violence.

Witnesses who appeared in congressional inquiries dubbed the province as a major theater in vote-padding and vote shaving operations in the 2004 presidential elections. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was accused of benefiting from fraud to win over popular actor Fernando Poe Jr. but no charges were ever filed against those said to be involved in the cheating.

CA ORDERS GAPAN COURT: Rule if Jaen mayor should be tried for murder

By Leila Salaverria
Last updated 10:43pm (Mla time) 04/30/2007
MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals has directed a Gapan regional trial court to rule if dismissed Jaen, Nueva Ecija Mayor Antonio Prospero Esquivel should be tried for murder in connection with the killing of a village chairman in June 1994.


In issuing the decision, the appellate court reversed and set aside the orders of Gapan RTC Judge Rodolfo Beltran that dropped Esquivel from the murder charge and denied the issuance of an arrest warrant against him.


It said Beltran should have first ruled on the government prosecutors’ plea to include Esquivel as an accused in the fatal shooting of Ricardo Velarde before issuing the orders.


In an April 23 decision, the appellate court said there was probable cause to charge Esquivel for Velarde’s death based on the third preliminary investigation of the case.


“The records of the third preliminary investigation directly incriminated Esquivel as the mastermind in the killing of petitioner’s spouse,” it said.


According to the Court of Appeals, Beltran had no jurisdiction to issue the orders that excluded Esquivel from murder and junked the plea for an arrest warrant since the judge had not yet decided on the prosecutors’ motion to admit the amended murder charge that indicted Esquivel and added Edgardo Santos as among the accused.


“Consequently, as respondent Esquivel had not yet been reinstated and included as an accused in the information, public respondent had no jurisdiction to issue the assailed orders which denied the issuance of the warrant of arrest against him and ordered his exclusion from the Information,” it said.


“The public respondent is hereby ordered to act first on the Ex Parte Motion to Admit Amended Information reinstating respondent Esquivel in the Information and substituting the name Edgardo Santos for ‘John Doe,'” it added.


It said that should Beltran still have doubts upon the determination of probable cause, he should hold a hearing for additional evidence or arguments from the prosecution.


The appellate court said that even if Beltran granted the prosecutors’ motion to indict Esquivel, the judge should still not have ordered the mayor dropped as one of the accused in Velarde’s death. The Court of Appeals noted Beltran did not conduct a hearing to determine probable cause. Besides the records of the case based on the third preliminary investigation established probable cause.


In saying there was probable cause, the appellate court cited the extrajudicial confessions of Rufino Domingo and Edgardo Santos who had tagged the mayor as the mastermind in Velarde’s killing.


The extrajudicial confession was among the new evidence considered in the third preliminary investigation.


The appellate court also said it was not pronouncing Esquivel guilty, but was simply stating that murder charges should not be dismissed for lack of evidence since evidence should be presented in the trial.


“Lest it be misunderstood, we are not prejudging the guilt or innocence of respondent Esquivel… It is just that we adhered to the general rule state in Cerbo, that ‘if the information is valid on its face and there is no showing of manifest error, grave abuse of discretion or prejudice on the part of the public prosecutor, courts should not dismiss it for ‘want to evidence,’ because evidentiary matters should be presented and heard during the trial,” it said.


Esquivel was initially excluded as an accused from the Velarde murder case
during the first preliminary investigation. A second preliminary investigation by the Department of Justice, however, resulted in the finding of probable cause against him.


Esquivel appealed the DoJ findings before then justice secretary Silvestre
Bello III, and the latter modified the findings and dropped the mayor as among the respondents.


But following Domingo and Santos’ surrender and confession tagging the mayor, a third preliminary investigation was conducted, again finding probable cause against Esquivel.


Esquivel, who is running for reelection, recently figured in a shooting incident that also involved the camp of his rival, Rodolfo Antonino. Two people were killed in the incident, while 12 others were hurt including Esquivel’s two sons.


The incident prompted the Commission on Elections to place Nueva Ecija under its control.


Esquivel was earlier ordered dismissed from service by the Ombudsman for his illegal dismissal of three employees.

Police: Rival family is suspect in Resuello slay

National Police chief Director General Oscar Calderon said Monday afternoon that members of the Soriano family in San Carlos City, Pangasinan are considered suspects behind the deadly shooting incident last Saturday night that claimed the life of incumbent Mayor Julian Resuello and his civilian aide.

Calderon issued the statement moments after saying in a news conference at Camp Crame, in Quezon City that the shooting incident is related to the May 14 polls.

Resuello, who died earlier Monday at the St. Luke’s Medical Center due to gunshot wounds, is running for vice mayor in the city under the Lakas party. His son, Julier, will attempt to succeed him as mayor. Julier is currently the city vice mayor.

The lone contender of Julier is former mayor Douglas Soriano.

Iisa lang naman ang magkalaban doon sa pulitika. The Soriano’s and ito ngang (pamilya ng) biktima, the Resuello’s,” Calderon said.

Asked if the Sorianos are suspects behind the shooting incident, Calceron said: “Well, we could say (that). Lahat naman ng makakasama pag nag-imbestiga kami, we will consider them as suspects.”

He expressed certainty that the actual killers, between two to four men, were hired goons.

Calderon said he heard that the Sorianos already denied any involvement in the incident, which also left five other people wounded, three of them were mere spectators at the city fiesta

The police have already recorded as of Monday, 97 election-related violent incidents since the election period started on January 14. Calderon said 24 of these incidents are confirmed to be politically motivated.

Of these incidents, 31 persons were killed and 59 others were wounded. – GMANews.TV

Comelec nod needed for poll duty – AFP

Amid directives from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to assist the police in preventing further election violence, the Armed Forces said Monday it cannot do so without prior clearance from the Commission on Elections.

In a news briefing, military information chief Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro said the AFP is bound by provisions of a memorandum of agreement the Defense department earlier entered into with the Comelec in October last year.

The agreement, which aims to insulate the military from partisan politics, stipulates that soldiers should not be tapped to perform poll-related duties except when there are serious armed threats.

Earlier in the day, President Arroyo called upon the military to assist the police in stemming the tide of election-related violence. The directive came hours after San Carlos City Mayor Julian Resuello succumbed while under treatment gunshot wounds at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City.

Resuello was fired at Saturday evening while attending a fiesta in one of the city’s villages. One of his aides was also killed in the incident.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is ready (to assist the PNP). Actually, that’s what we have been preparing for…The Armed Forces of the Philippines is prepared to respond to any election related mandate that the Commission on Election will be providing us once we are deputized,” Bacarro said.

“So the bottom line is we are prepared to provide said assistance once we are deputized by the Commission on Election based on the recommendation of the Philippine National Police,” he added.

What the military can do for the meantime, Bacarro said, is to establish checkpoints in areas where election violence are to be expected.

“As a measure, the chief of staff (Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr) has directed the chief of operations (Maj. Gen. Jogy Fojas) to direct all units to increase the number of checkpoints that we are establishing,” Bacarro said without disclosing the exact location of the checkpoints to be established.

“There will be an increase in the checkpoints that we have to ensure that the implementation of the (election) gun ban. These checkpoints are will be ISO-related but of course it can in a way be a preemptive measure for groups that would be advocating the use of violence,” he added. – GMANews.TV