Bittersweet win for Negros Occidental town official who survived ambush

Marchel P. Espina
Bittersweet win for Negros Occidental town official who survived ambush
'This is a clear statement of Moises Padilla,' says Vice Mayor Ella Garcia Yulo after her overwhelming victory over reelectionist Mayor Magdaleno Peña

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – It was a bittersweet victory for Moises Padilla town Vice Mayor Ella Garcia Yulo, who scored an overwhelming win in the mayoral race against reelectionist Mayor Magdaleno Peña in the May 13 elections.

Yulo garnered 13,056 votes against Peña who only scored 5,493 votes. Of the more than 26,000 registered voters in Moises Padilla, 20,274 cast their votes on Monday.

Yulo never really got the chance to campaign as she was in jail with her husband, Felix Mathias Yulo III, over charges of illegal possession of explosives.

The Yulos were first arrested in a police checkpoint in December 2017, for alleged  illegal possession of explosives and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, but they were released weeks later due to insufficient evidence.

In August 2018, La Carlota City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 63 Judge Cyclamen Jison-Fernandez issued warrants for their arrest after the Yulos were charged with illegal possession of explosives, and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. They were jailed in September, after the couple surrendered.

Yulo was detained at the Negros Occidental District Jail in Bago City when she filed her Certificate of Candidacy for mayor in October 2018.

Just weeks after she was released in April this year, again due to insufficient evidence, she survived an ambush  on her campaign convoy, but her brother and nephew were killed in the attack that, she believed, targeted her.

Yulo said here was a bittersweet win because she lost two loved ones. (READ: Guns, goons, killings in small Negros Occidental town)

She said her win reflected the will of the people to replace the incumbent mayor. “This is a clear statement of Moises Padilla. Mayor Magsie, puli ka gid sa Pulupandan (Mayor Magsie, you should go home to Pulupandan). Puli na Pulupandan (go home to Pulupandan),” Yulo said.

Pulupandan is the hometown of Peña, where he was also a former mayor. 

Peña is the uncle of Yulo. They were running mates in the 2016 elections. 

Yulo said she made the mistake of supporting Peña in the last elections because her family paid a heavy price for it. 

Moises Padilla was placed under the control of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) following the killings. Aside from Yulo’s nephew, reelectionist Councilor Michael Garcia, who was killed in the April 25 ambush, reelectionist Councilor Jolomar Hilario was gunned down in front of his family on March 31.

Heavy security

The vice mayor and her family cast their votes at the Moises Padilla Elementary School on Monday afternoon. Her convoy was heavily escorted by security forces. 

In an interview at the polling precinct, Yulo was upbeat about the election results.

“We have exercised our vote and we can feel freedom starting today,” she added. 

She was also happy that their supporters in the uplands were able to vote because “it was quiet and there was no harassment.”

The security forces were on alert as they were anticipating election roadblocks  in certain areas in the town, which would prevent voters from reaching the polling precincts.

In fact, Capiz provincial election supervisor Jessie Suarez, head of Comelec task force in the town, said army personnel were deployed to Crossing Magallon, Hacienda Dresden and Barangay Odiong after a boom was placed in the said areas. They were deployed as early as 4 am yesterday. 

Meanwhile, Yulo lauded the police for arresting the suspects engaged in vote buying and illegal election campaigning on the eve of the campaign. Peña had questioned the arrests, saying some of those nabbed by police worked for him and were not involved in any illegal activity.

Peña didn’t cast his vote on Monday at his polling precinct in Doña Mercedes Montilla Elementary School, as confirmed by the local Comelec office. 

This is the second consecutive elections that he failed to vote, despite being a candidate. 

According to Comelec rules, a voter will be deactivated due to failure to vote in two consecutive elections. –

 Follow Rappler’s full coverage of the 2019 Philippine elections here.

Check this Rappler page for real-time election results.

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