MOISES PADILLA, Negros Occidental— President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered warring politicians in this central Negros town to put a stop to election-related violence, with only a few days left before the May 13 mid-term polls.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Duterte issued the directive to the concerned officials on Wednesday as he presided over a security meeting held at Moises Padilla Elementary School.
“The President wanted to see the situation here in Moises Padilla and Negros Occidental first-hand, with his own eyes,” Año told reporters after Duterte left, following the two-hour meeting that started after his arrival at around 5:30 p.m.
He said Duterte has been concerned about the ambush on April 25 that claimed the lives of reelectionist Jose Antonio “Michael” Garcia and his uncle, Jose Marcelino “Mark” Garcia.
The latter’s sister, Vice Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo, is challenging the reelection bid of Mayor Magdaleno Peña, who is also a relative.
Last March 31, Councilor Jolomar Hilario, also a reelectionist, was killed by suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) inside his residence.
“Sinabi niya na ayaw na niya na may mamamatay sa magkabilang sides (The President said he does not want anyone killed anymore, from both sides),” Año said.
He added that Duterte does not want lives wasted just because of politics.
“With that warning, I think we’re going to have good, peaceful elections here,” Año said.
He also said the President talked to Peña and warned him that no violence should be allowed to happen again.
“Nagsabi ang Pangulo na gagawa siya ng kaukulan aksyon kapag may sumuway sa kanila (The President said he will act accordingly if anyone will disobey his order),” Año added.
In a separate interview, Peña confirmed that President Duterte told him that he wants the elections in Moises Padilla to be held peacefully, and he replied, “Consider it done”.
“That’s what the President ordered…He wants peaceful elections, I said ‘You’re the boss, done’,” the mayor said.
Peña added that he informed the President that the killings are perpetrated by the NPA.
Meanwhile, Garcia-Yulo, who also had a separate meeting with the Chief Executive, said that Duterte assured her of justice and truth for the death of her brother and nephew.
“That’s what he promised that justice will be served and the truth will come out,” she added.
The mayoral candidate said the president also ensured the safety of the voters here during the elections on Monday “because he believes that the voice of the people is the voice of God”.
The President, who arrived with former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, came two days after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) put Moises Padilla under its control, following the series of election-related violent incidents that included the ambush on the Garcias.
The Comelec listed Moises Padilla under Category Red, being an “area of grave concern”, with a history of election-related incidents in the past two elections and intense political rivalry, with a serious armed threat posed by the NPA and other lawless elements.
Aside from Año, other officials who attended the meeting included Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza, and top officials of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army in Western Visayas led by Brig. Gen. John Bulalacao and Maj. Gen. Dinoh Dolina, respectively. ( Nanette Guadalquiver NDB via PNA)