COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/25 October) — Vice mayor Alexander Tomawis of Barira, Maguindanao was held under restricted custody by elements of the 603rd Infantry Brigade after allegedly commandeering election paraphernalia for his town and Buldon, where his wife is the mayor.
Before noon on Sunday, Army troops from the brigade had received complaints of Tomawis’ alleged involvement in partisan politics.
Later, at a checkpoint in Parang, Maguindanao, his convoy was found joining the convoy of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), municipal treasurer and police in delivering ballots for Barira and Buldon.
According to 603rd Brigade Commander Col. Ernesto Aradanas, Tomawis did not properly coordinate with the election officers and the Municipal Joint Security Coordinating Center (MJSCC).
He was immediately separated from the convoy and placed under restricted custody.
Tomawis opted to stay in his vehicle and later in the IRA 911 office at the Parang town hall.
“He is viewed as trying to do partisan activities or electioneering activities which is forbidden by Comelec, and we are deputized to arrest and put them and other people who will attempt to cross the line under restriction until the end of the election process, ” Aradanas said.
Tomawis denied the allegations, saying it was just coincidental that they came in a convoy.
“It’s not true that I commandeered the ballots, it was just coincidental that we came in a convoy, I came from Cotabato and they came from Buluan, We just met in Simuay. So they think we came together,” he said.
At around 11 a.m, at the back of the town hall of Barira, elements of the 603rd Brigade found a parked Hi-ace van loaded with election paraphernalia and a dump truck carrying 56 ballot boxes.
It was later found that these were intended for delivery to Buldon.
The election officers in charge of these documents, however, were nowhere to be found.
But Aradanas said he has no plans of filing charges against Tomawis.
“It’s not in my dictionary. All we want is to push the election so the people would enjoy their right to choose their leaders and not be hampered by any political interference. This is happening in almost every election here. Let’s give them a chance,” he explained. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)