2022 PH local races

Jailed Negros Occidental town councilors seek reelection, file COCs in handcuffs

Inday Espina-Varona
Jailed Negros Occidental town councilors seek reelection, file COCs in handcuffs

REELECTIONISTS. Moises Padilla Councilors Vincent Garcia and Jose Morito Flores walk from their jail cell at the town police station to the Commission on Elections office in Moises Padilla town, Negros Occidental, on October 5, 2021, escorted by police.

Screengrab from Rad Garcia's video

Moises Padilla councilors Vincent Garcia and Jose Morito Flores are charged with the alleged murder of a councilor in 2019, which the New People's Army had already owned up to

Two Negros Occidental town councilors who have been in jail over murder charges filed their certificates of candidacy (COCs) for reelection in handcuffs on Tuesday, October 5.

Councilors Vincent Garcia and Jose Morito Flores, both handcuffed and escorted by police, walked from their jail cell at the town police station to the Commission on Elections office to file their COCs.

The two were among the town officials who surrendered in August and September this year after taking prolonged leaves from their duties. They had been charged in the March 31, 2019 murder of Jolomar Hilario, a councilor who was up for reelection in the May 2019 elections.

On September 27, Acting Presiding Judge Anthomy Dumpilo of Branch 64 of the Regional Trial Court in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, granted them leave to file their COCs.

“The grant of the prayer is likewise consistent with the right to run for public office, which is a fundamental right protected by the Bill of Rights,” the judge said.

He ordered the National Bureau of Investigation’s Bacolod office and the Moises Padilla police office to provide security escort for the two.

The court also granted leave to Vice Mayor Ian Villaflor and reelectionist councilor Jimmy Don Plaza who were escorted by NBI agents.

Vincent thanked residents who walked with them to the filing center for keeping the faith despite their legal troubles.

Controversial case

The murder case against the two councilors and other local officials is controversial because the New People’s Army (NPA) had claimed responsibility for the Hilario slay. The NPA had claimed that Hilario was their target as he was supposedly a military asset.

Moises Padilla Mayor Ella Garcia Yulo and her husband were earlier implicated in the Hilario slay case but this was later dismissed as they were both in jail for a different case when the alleged murder plot was hatched.

The Garcias of Moises Padilla also suffered deaths ahead of the 2019 elections. In April 2019, the campaign convoy of then-vice mayor Yulo was attacked, leading to the death of her brother, Mark; and nephew, Michael, a reelectionist councilor.

Vincent is the younger brother of Michael. He was running an eatery with his mother and girlfriend in Dumaguete when his brother was killed. He was prompted to return to Moises Padilla town to be a substitute candidate for the slain reelectionist councilor, and found himself dragged into the Hilario case.

Vincent backed the call of his aunt to have the town placed under Comelec control for the 2022 polls. Speaking from his detention cell, Vincent said he supported Comelec control of the town as he cited the death of his older brother in the run-up to the 2019 elections.

The killings in Moises Padilla town gained more prominence when President Rodrigo Duterte went to the town in May 2019 and railed against the violence

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