Bogo City, Philippines – A thanksgiving mass in Bogo City for newly proclaimed congressman-elect Benhur Salimbangon almost did not happen on Monday.
The parish priest of Bogo City’s main church confirmed that he was earlier asked by supporters of Mayor Celestino “Junnie” Martinez Jr. not to officiate the mass in the Shrine of St. Vincent Ferrer.
But Fr. Jojo Dosado decided to go ahead anyway saying it was his role to “cater to the needs of my parishioners.”
Dosado said he was approached by Martinez supporters last Saturday who advised against allowing a mass in the church because “political tension has not subsided,” referring to the melee that happened last Monday at City Hall.
Dosado refused to give names. He said, “both sides are my friends.”
The Mass pushed through at 10 a.m. on Monday.
Dosado told Cebu Daily News (CDN) that he and assistant parish priest Fr. Ely Suico discussed the appeal of Martinez supporters, even as the pastors tried to get in touch with the Bogo mayor. Martinez was out of town and couldn’t be reached at the time.
Dosado said he declined the request because “it was not good to postpone the activity.”
He said Salimbangon did not single out Bogo City for the thanksgiving mass, but was doing it in all the towns of the 4th district. He said he told Martinez supporters he couldn’t grant their request because he has to “cater to the needs of his parishioners.”
Dosado, who runs the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Vincent Ferrer, also consulted his superior, Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Julito Cortes about the request.
Cortes told him it was his decision to make as parish priest and as vicar of the bishop in the place.
Still, Martinez supporters were able to convince church officials not to allow Salimbangon partisans to hold their luncheon meeting in the nearby Patria building, a facility owned by the parish.
“We looked for a compromise. Mag misa pasalamat, apan ang ilang pundok-pundok adto sa gawas (There’s a thanksgiving mass but the gathering will have to be done outside),” he said.
The lunch was held at Pandan Heights, a recreational facility a few minutes ride from the church.
According to Dosado, one of the points he looked into when he took up the request of Martinez supporters was the reason they presented.
In trying to block the mass, Martinez allies told Dosado it “could trigger resentment among partisans, which they may not be able to control.”
“If leaders can’t control their followers, what kind of leaders are they?” the priest said.
Asked about the atmosphere in the city, Dosado said what’s happening “is about politics” and that the recent events were “not extraordinary.”
“In an election, there are winners and losers. Those who can’t accept defeat are overacting,” he said.
On July 9, irate supporters of Martinez surrounded City Hall to block the entry of police escorts and an election official sent to obtain four missing Election Returns that would complete the last-stage canvassing in Manila.
An unidentified supporter snatched the ballot box and ran into the City Hall to the second floor. A Sun.Star photographer who ran into City Hall to get a photograph was mauled by Martinez supporters at the foot of the stairs.
Junnie is the acknowledged political kingpin of the 4th district before Salimbangon won the district race against Junnie’s son Celestino “Tining Martinez III.
The final canvass showed Salimbangon won by a margin of 104 votes. He was proclaimed last July 9 by the Provincial Board of Canvassers in the Comelec head office in Manila. The results are under protest in petitions filed with the Supreme Court and House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.
Salimbangon earlier told CDN that Martinez supporters tried to prevent their activity by asking the local parish priest not to grant their request for mass “until after political tensions subside.”