ILOILO, Philippines – Mayoral candidate Gerry “Doc V” Villanueva of San Dionisio, Iloilo cried foul after his party found their way barred while cruising down a road linking two villages on Saturday afternoon, April 30
“They claimed the road to be privately owned,” Villanueva told Rappler in the local Hiligaynon language, referring to the road connecting Barangays Agdaliran and Borongon.
The family of vice-mayoralty candidate Saliha “Sally” Lopez, who is with the Nacionalista Party slate of reelectionist Mayor Darwin “Jon-Jon” Bajada, claims the road is private property and they have put up tarpaulin signs.
“We did not insist because we do not want any trouble,” Villanueva said.
The mayoralty challenger from the National Unity Party (NUP) claimed the land owners’ action hampers the democratic right of citizens to vote for their candidates.
“We appeal for safe and fair elections for the people of San Dionisio. It is the right of our electorate to vote for candidates they think can bring progress to our municipality,” he said.
Sangguniang Bayan (SB) member Roger Neil Lopez, Sally’s nephew and one of the lookouts in the area, told Rappler they refused entry to Villanueva’s party after a guard was hurt in a scuffle caused by the husband of Vice Mayor Erma Perez.
He added that aside from their property, there is already a “publicly-owned” road that can be used by anyone.
“Our guard is an old senior citizen. He told the Villanueva-Perez group he will call me (to ask) if entry should be granted but the group refused, and suddenly, Tito Perez, husband of Vice Mayor Erma Perez, pushed the old man to the ground,” he said.
Lopez also said the opposing party threatened their people and that one man carried a firearm.
“[I] saw them threatening my people… We also saw they have armed men on our property and to me, that is threatening and (they) should not be allowed on the premises to avoid harm to ourselves,” said Lopez on his Facebook account, where he also posted photos of the still unidentified armed man.
“Considering the gun ban, it is alarming that someone aggressive like them [violates the law] within our property,” Lopez added.
Villanueva, in a phone interview, neither confirmed nor denied the presence of firearms from their camp.
He said the commotion will be settled with the local police as the family of Vice Mayor Perez already filed a blotter complaint.
Lopez stressed that the family built the gate merely to secure their hacienda.
“I am no longer running, so it has nothing to do with politics. It is because we lost a goat and carabao a few days ago and the barangay did not take any action,” he explained.
Agdaliran Barangay Captain Ruth Celestial-Cachuela and several locals revealed that those identified as supporters of Perez are required to pay a pass-through fee of Php 50.
Celestial-Cachuela claimed it was Lopez who said that only those who would vote for Sally could use the road.
“It is he who went to me yesterday and notified me that they will put a barricade on the road owned by their family. He even broke it to me that those who are identified to be voting for reelectionist Vice Mayor Erma Perez in the elections are prohibited to pass the road,” she told Rappler.
Celestial-Cachuela also emphasized that incidents like this crop up only during local elections and that similar incidents were reported during previous contests.
“This is very unfair because voters cannot freely vote. This has been a problem even before. We have been suggesting to the government to buy the area,” she said.
Lopez disputed Celestial-Cachuela’s claim.
“The claim of Capt Cachuela that there was an area for Lopez leaders is true, but that is different from denying passage to the residents who are not for Lopez… Even though (it is) a private property for how many years, we (do not) charge people passing by,” Lopez said. – Rjay Zuriaga Castor/Rappler.com
Rjay Zuriaga Castor is a Rappler Mover in San Dionisio, Iloilo.