Rep. Bag-ao mulls raps vs Ecleo ally

TUBAJON, Dinagat Islands (MindaNews/13 May) – A candidate for congresswoman of Dinagat is planning to file a case of gun ban violation and other charges against the vice mayor of Libjo town.

Akbayan Rep. Arlene Bag-ao said her lawyers are “seriously preparing” charges against three men who were arrested Sunday allegedly in the possession of a firearm registered under the name of Libjo Vice Mayor Romeo Villarosa.

Villarosa is a known supporter of Bag-ao’s opponent, incumbent Dinagat town mayor Gwendolyn Ecleo.

Bag-ao believes the three suspects were out to kill her.

The three suspects were arrested 2pm Sunday at a beach resort in Sitio Kadaya, Barangay Sta. Cruz of this town owned by Mayor Romeo Vargas.

Allegedly seized from the suspects who were identified through their identification cards as Hilario M. Destura, Mariano S. Dagala and Daniel V. Dawat were an improvised M4 armalite, cash amounting to P134,560, mobile phones, cell cards, IDs, personal effects like bonnets, shawls, backpacks and several other items.

The three are reportedly working as municipal employees in Libjo.

Vargas said he saw the suspects waiting for hours on board a motorboat about 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tubajon police chief Insp. Arnel Banaken said the suspects will likely be slapped with violation of the election gun ban but declined to comment on the possibility that they were planning to kill Bag-ao, saying they were still investigating the incident.

Vargas, a supporter of Bag-ao’s, asked the men why they were at his resort and reported their presence to the police after seeing the nozzle of an armalite behind one of the suspects.

In a meeting Sunday night with Bag-ao, Banaken confirmed that the firearm belongs to Villarosa. He said it is licensed complete with a permit to carry.

MindaNews tried to get an interview with Villarosa through his allies but they refused to issue a statement.

Bag-ao is the first non-member of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) to contest the Ecleos’ political hold on Dinagat.

The PBMA is a quasi-religious cult founded by Gwendolyn’s father, Ruben Ecleo Sr., and has since become their family’s political power base.

“There are factual and circumstantial evidences that are leading to the probability that it (murder attempt) is true,” Bag-ao said pointing to the presence of the pumpboat that was on standby for hours inside a place where she was expected to arrive a day before the election.

She would usually stay at the resort every time she visits Loreto, her hometown.

“If they said they were there for some business, why then should they be carrying a gun? And why were they there for so long?”

“I think this is already a desperate move. Because they cannot convince the people through legal means they’ll resort to violence to silence their opponents,” she said.

Bag-ao added that if her opponents can do it to her, they can do it to the ordinary people of Dinagat.

She said she will pursue the filing of charges “to give justice to the people”.

“In this sense, I also want to bring back the respect of the people in the government institutions, elections, and governance by letting those who commit illegal acts answerable to the law,” she said. (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)