SUSPECTED VOTE BUYING MONEY. Policemen count the money allegedly used for vote buying in North Cotabato. At least four alleged supporters of the Taliño political clan in the province were caught in possession of the money on Friday night (May 10, 2019). The Taliño camp has denied the money was for vote buying, saying this was for watchers' pay. (Photo courtesy of the M’lang Police)
KIDAPAWAN CITY -- Police in M’lang, North Cotabato arrested four persons allegedly carrying out vote buying activities for Nacionalista Party gubernatorial and vice gubernatorial candidates on Friday night.
In a report received by Col. Maximo Layugan, North Cotabato provincial police director, from the M’lang municipal police office, the suspects were identified as Sonny Dafielmoto Pasquin, 55, and Joel Forden Bolero, 54, both church lay leaders of Barangay New Rizal in M’lang town.
Also arrested were Mateo Cabrillos Cuateros, 52, and Christine Punzalan Esparagoza, 33, both of Barangay Poblacion, Carmen, the hometown of Nacionalista gubernatorial candidate and incumbent Carmen Mayor Roger Taliño, and his daughter Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, incumbent provincial governor, as his running mate.
“Residents of Barangay New Kalibo in M’lang alerted the police about the presence of four persons with bundles of money and list with signatures of people who received money from them,” Layugan said.
The four are currently detained at the M’lang police lockup, facing charges of violating the election laws on vote-buying and disobedience to persons in authority.
The suspects ignored police orders for them to get off the pickup vehicle after they were cornered by policemen and residents.
Police said they only alighted about two hours later when a lawyer representing Mendoza and her personal staff, Jessie Enid, arrived.
Police recovered from the suspects cash amounting to PHP206,600 and two sheets of bond paper with a list of names and signatures that police said were proof that those people received money from the suspected “vote buyers”.
Also seized by police was a Strada pickup vehicle with license plate LGM-741.
Mendoza, in a statement posted on her Facebook page, admitted her supporters were carrying more than PHP200,000 cash intended as payment for her poll watchers.
“Is giving money to our watchers a crime?” she asked.
She accused M’lang Vice Mayor Joselito Piñol of abuse of power and harassment.
She said her supporters, the four suspects, were verbally abused and repeatedly threatened by a group of people allegedly on orders of the vice mayor.
“This is another harassment and threat to our supporters in the hands of the Piñols in Barangay New Kalibo last night,” Mendoza said.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Socrates Piñol, incumbent board member and running for vice governor, said lawyers of the Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas – Lakas ng Bayan Party, where he belongs, are preparing charges against those believed to be involved in the vote buying operations.
It was the second vote buying incident linked to the Taliño father-daughter political tandem of the Nacionalista Party.
Two days earlier, two village officials of Tulunan, North Cotabato were also caught with several bags of rice, envelopes containing money, and campaign materials of the Taliños.
They were identified as chairman Alfredo Losbañez of Barangay Baynosa and chairman Richard Pandacan of Barangay Caridad, both in Tulunan, who used a barangay government-owned vehicle in transporting the goods from Kidapawan City going to their respective villages.
Both officials claimed the rice and money were for the “dead” in their villages. (PNA)