Court orders arrest of Leyte VM Modesto, councilor Makabenta over fake documents

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CARIGARA, Leyte — A municipal trial court here has ordered the arrest of the town’s vice mayor and councilor over falsification of private documents.

The local court issued the warrant of arrest Monday afternoon against Vice Mayor Mildred Modesto and town councilor Rachel Makabenta.

The Philippine National Police confirmed that the two local government officials surrendered Monday afternoon at the local police station and each one of them posted the recommended PHP36,000 bail.

The local court issued the warrant of arrest a month after incumbent Carigara Leyte Mayor Eduardo Ong Sr. filed charges against Modesto and Makabenta for allegedly falsifying documents.

The two local officials filed a complaint at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) central office saying that Ong and his son, Eduardo Jr., are not qualified to run due to lack of residency.

In a joint resolution issued March 21, the Office of the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor ruled the vice mayor and the councilor used the sworn statements of a certain Maritesse Cantojos, which were subscribed before notary public lawyer Ulpiano Arpon, the town’s former vice mayor.

However, both Cantojos and Arpon denied that they signed those affidavits submitted by the two officials to the Comelec central office.

Modesto is seeking a reelection bid against Eduardo Jr. while Makabenta is running as mayor against incumbent Eduardo Sr.

Reporters sought comments from Modesto and Makabenta on the case but legislative staff said they have no time for media interviews since they are busy signing documents and attending committee meetings.

Former town councilor Dennis Garay, the spokesman of the Ong family, said they are confident that the disqualification cases filed before the Comelec central office will be dismissed.

“The disqualification cases on grounds of residency appear to be products of respondents’ indiscretions. This is a betrayal of a former political ally since in the past two elections, Makabenta endorsed the candidacy of Eduardo Sr.,” Garay told reporters.

The Ong family has been known for toppling the Apostol political dynasty, one of the oldest political clan in Leyte.

Eduardo Sr. defeated two members of the Apostol family in the 2013 and 2016 mayoralty race. The mayor’s brother, Henry, won in 2016 as Leyte 2nd district representative against Sergio Apostol, former lawmaker and cabinet official, who ruled the legislative district for decades.

Since 2016, the Ong family has been establishing a new political dynasty in Leyte, with Henry seeking a second term in the House of Representative.

Eduardo Sr. picked his 22-year-old son, Eduardo Jr., who has no experience in government, as his running mate in the 2019 polls.

The younger Ong is reportedly being groomed by his father to replace him in the mayoralty seat after the end of his much-anticipated third and last term in 2022.

The young politician is largely counting on guidance from his father and uncle to woo more than 34,000 voters in Carigara, a second-class town in central Leyte. Carigara is the first municipality established in the Eastern Visayas region. (PNA)