By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

Mayoral candidate Gerry “Doc V” Villanueva of San Dionisio, Iloilo, decries foul after his party was barred from passing through a road going to two villages in the town on Saturday afternoon, April 30. 

“We were blocked from passing the area because they claimed the road to be privately owned. We did not insist because we do not want any clamor,” said Villaneuva in Hiligaynon. 

The road on the way to Brgy. Agdaliran and Borongon, were said to be a property privately owned by the family of vice-mayoralty candidate Saliha “Sally” Lopez. Sally is running under the Nacionalista Party ticket, joining reelectionist Mayor Darwin “Jon-Jon” Bajada. 

Villanueva, who runs under the National Unity Party (NUP) slate, further slammed the incident, reiterating that it suppresses the essence of democracy as it curtails the right of all citizens to vote for the candidate of their choice. 

“We appeal for safe and fair elections for the people of San Dionisio. It is the right of our electorate to vote for candidates they think can bring progress to our municipality,” he reckoned.

As one of the lookouts in the area, Sangguniang Bayan (SB) member and nephew of Sally, Roger Neil Lopez, said the reason for the gate is to secure their hacienda and is not politically motivated nor does it have connections with the upcoming elections. 

“I am no longer running, so it has nothing to do with politics. It is because we lost a goat and carabao a few days ago. And since the barangay did not take any actions about it, we made it ourselves,” he explained. 

On the contrary, Ruth Celestial-Cachuela, Brgy. Captain of Agdaliran, said there is no truth to Roger Lopez’s assertion. She clarified that it came from the latter’s mouth that only those who would vote for Sally Lopez can use the road. 

“It is him (Roger Lopez) who went to me yesterday and notified me that they will put a barricade on the road owned by their family. He even broke it to me that those who are identified to be voting for reelectionist Vice Mayor Erma Perez in the elections are prohibited to pass the road,” she revealed. 

Celestial-Cachuela also emphasized that this incident only exists during local elections and has happened even way before the past local elections. Locals have also confirmed that watch guards on duty in the area would require those who are identified supporters of Perez to pay for Php 50.

“This is very unfair because voters cannot freely vote. This has been a problem even before. We have been suggesting to the government to buy the area. I am deeply saddened by the fact that my constituents are demanded to pay for the amount,” she narrated.

Opposition supporters, not charged

While Roger Lopez affirmed the claim favoring residents supporting Sally, he, however, denied the alleged obstruction of the supporters of the opposition on their property. 

“The claim of Capt Cachuela that there was an area for Lopez leaders is true, but that is different from denying passage to the residents who are not for Lopez… Even though (it is) a private property for how many years, we (do not) charge people passing by,” Lopez reiterated in a statement. 

He added that aside from their property, there is already a “publicly owned” road that can be used by anyone. 

The SB member maintained that they do not allow unauthorized persons to enter the area for no valid reason. For him, their family has the leverage on who can only enter the property. 

Presence of firearms?

The refusal of entry to the party of Villanueva according to Lopez is rooted in a scuffle caused by the husband of Vice Mayor Perez, which hurt a guard on duty.

“Our guard is an old senior citizen, he told the Villanueva-Perez group he will call me if entry should be granted but the group refused, and suddenly, Tito Perez, husband of Vice Mayor Erma Perez, pushed the old man to the ground,” he said. 

Lopez revealed that his people were threatened by the opposition, stressing that their political opponents have an armed man. On his Facebook account, Lopez posted a photo of the unidentified armed man. 

“[I] saw them threatening my people… We also saw they have armed men on our property and to me, that is threatening and should not be allowed on the premises to avoid harm to ourselves. Considering the gun ban, it is alarming that someone aggressive like them [violates the law] within our property,” said Lopez. 

Villanueva, in a phone interview, neither confirmed nor denied the presence of firearms from their camp. He said the commotion will be settled in the local police as the family of Vice Mayor Perez already filed a blotter complaint. 

Under Comelec Resolution No. 10728, non-law enforcers are prohibited from bearing, carrying, or transporting firearms or deadly weapons outside of the residence and in all public places from January 9 until June 8.

Edited by Nehmia Elyxa Relano