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Negros Marañon, security body ask Comelec to take control of violence-hit Negros town

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BACOLOD CITY — The Provincial Joint Security Control Center (PJSCC) in Negros Occidental has recommended to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc to place Moises Padilla under its control amid the volatile peace and order situation in the central Negros municipality.

Provincial Election Supervisor Salud Milagros Villanueva said on Friday afternoon her office, along with the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office and the Philippine Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade, agreed to make the recommendation in a meeting earlier in the day.

“It’s the Commission en banc which will decide on the matter. We already sent our recommendation through email. It is more prudent for us to wait how the events will unfold. I would like to stress though that there is a need, urgency and necessity. I trust it will be acted upon immediately,” she said.

Villanueva said that two factors — violence by private armed groups and the presence of the New People’s Army — were considered for the municipality to be placed under Comelec control.

The recommendation came a day after two family members of Moises Padilla Vice Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo, who is running for mayor, were killed on the campaign trail.

The fatalities were her nephew, reelectionist Councilor Jose Antonio “Michael” Garcia; and her brother, former Association of Barangay Captains president, Jose Marcelino “Mark” Garcia.

Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., an ally of the Garcias under the United Negros Alliance, himself sent a letter to Commissioner Al Parreño, head of the Committee on the Ban on Firearms and Security Personnel, on Friday requesting to place Moises Padilla under Comelec control to restore peace and order, and ensure public safety during the election period in the town.

Villanueva said she included the request of Marañon in the recommendation submitted by the PJSCC to the Comelec en banc.

Currently, Moises Padilla is under Category Red, which means it is an “area of grave concern”, with a history of election-related incidents in the past two elections and intense political rivalry, and there is serious armed threat posed by the NPA and other lawless elements.

On Friday afternoon, the Moises Padilla Municipal Police Station headed by Capt. Junji Liba filed criminal complaints against 30 persons, including reelectionist Councilor Agustin Grande III, believed to be involved in the ambush that led to the death of the two Garcias.

Baleros said charges included double murder, murder, attempted murder, and frustrated murder, depending on the participation of the perpetrators.

He added that seven suspects have been identified, two of whom were detained — Grande and Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team member, Joe Cezar. They underwent an inquest at the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office here on Friday afternoon.

In the evening, Grande was released by the police upon the order of Associate Prosecution Attorney II Ken Furuyama, who stated in a two-page inquest resolution that “this office finds insufficient the legal and factual basis of the arresting police officers in effecting a warrantless arrest against his person.”

In a related development, the reward offered to anyone who can provide information on the identities of the perpetrators in the Garcia family ambush has increased to PHP2 million.

After Marañon offered an initial P1 million on Thursday, 3rd District Rep. Alfredo Benitez, said on Friday that his local party Love Negros also put up the same amount as a reward. PNA