Poll official appeals for calm among candidates, supporters in GenSan

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 May) – An election official here appealed to local candidates and their supporters to remain calm and abide by their signed peace covenants even as the official campaigning finally winds up on Saturday.

Lawyer Marlon Casquejo, acting city election officer, made the appeal on Friday as the city’s main political camps continued to accuse each other of committing election-related violations and irregularities, heating up the already tense political scene in the area.

He reminded candidates that they have sworn in their peace covenants to pursue honest, orderly and peaceful campaigning as well as not to resort to “dirty tactics.”

“Sana panindigan natin ang pinirmahang peace covenants (I hope you’ll honor the peace covenants that you signed),” Casquejo said.

On Wednesday afternoon, stalwarts of the administration-backed Liberal Party-Achievers with Integrity Movement (LP-AIM) filed a complaint before the city prosecutor’s office for violation of the Omnibus Election Code against 10 supporters of rival People’s Champ Movement-United Nationalist Alliance (PCM-UNA) slate over the alleged destruction of their campaign posters.

The filing of the complaint came after police authorities arrested a group of PCM supporters on Tuesday night while hauling some 52 sacks of torn LP-AIM campaign posters aboard two vehicles at a portion of Purok Guadalupe in Barangay Conel here.

Named respondents in the complaint were the two drivers and their eight helpers, who are presently detained at the city police headquarters at Camp Fermin Lira here.

The vehicles, which carried posters of Sarangani Rep. Emannuel Pacquiao’s younger brother Rogelio, were owned by the congressman’s chief of staff Michael Bren Evangelio.

The younger Pacquiao is PCM-UNA’s candidate for the first congressional district seat of South Cotabato province.

PCM-UNA repeatedly denied any hand in the incident and instead released a video taken by mobile phone that showed reelectionist Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio of LP-AIM releasing goats and agricultural inputs to some residents.

But Custodio said there was nothing irregular with her presence in the activity as she was just there supposedly through an invitation from the Department of Agriculture.

Casquejo said the respondents in the complaint might face possible charges for violation of the Omnibus Election Code and Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Election Act.

Article 10, Section 83 of the election code prohibits the removal, destruction or defacement of lawful election propaganda.

“The removal of any election propaganda without authority from the Comelec (Commission on Elections) is an election offense,” the official explained.

Casquejo urged both political camps to avoid further mudslinging and just focus on addressing some vital issues that concern the city and local voters.

He added that they should also abide by all election laws and regulations until all election-related activities are completed. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)