By Martin Sadongdong
In what could be the earliest case of foiled vote-buying ahead of the May 13 midterm elections, 10 persons, who were allegedly distributing envelopes containing P200-bills to encourage residents to vote for Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla and Vice-Governor Jolo Revilla, were arrested by the police in Bacoor town Saturday night.
Arrested were Teresita Marjes, Irene Morales, Elsie Alano, Jayson Alab, Rex del Rosario, Jose de Leon, Gregorio Tamio, Michael Omedes, Joselino Villa and Jowel Sale.
Five of them are allegedly employees at the city hall, but the police refused to confirm this.
Police Colonel Lawrence Cajipe, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group’s Calabarzon police Regional Field Unit (CIDG-RFU 4A), said the operatives nabbed the suspects after a concerned citizen saw them allegedly distributing small brown envelopes to residents in Barangay Zapote 5, Bacoor around 6 p.m.
Cajipe said the concerned citizen immediately reported the sighting to the police.
A team of CIDG operatives proceeded to the area to verify the incident until they caught the suspects in the act of distributing the envelopes, Cajipe noted.
The police confiscated from the suspects bundles of small brown envelopes containing P200-bills with a total amount of P75,800, cash worth P83,500, a plastic bag containing red wristbands with markings “FIX m”, two white shirts with printed words “Tapat sa Bayan, Tapat sa Usapan,” “Jonvic Remulla Gobernador” and “Jolo Revilla Bise-Gobernador” in the front and “Vote WOW 169 PILIPINAS” at the back, and a red notebook full of names of persons.
However, Remulla, who is seeking for a re-election for Cavite’s gubernatorial post, denied that he was involved in vote-buying.
In a post on his Facebook page, Remulla said that the money was not used to bribe the voters but the “travel allowance” of his “campaign watchers.”
Remulla confirmed that he had just finished a campaign rally at Barangay Zapote 5 when he learned the arrest made by the CIDG.
“As per practice for every election, we have watchers training everyday for the next few days leading to the elections. The watchers are duly accredited and trained together with a reporting app attached to their smartphones. In the process of distributing their travel allowance for next week’s training, they were raided, accosted and arrested with no charges,” Remulla said.
Last week, a photo of a white shirt which matched the description of the paraphernalia seized from the 10 suspects made the rounds online when Twitter user Jeremy @jrmy_stll posted it on social media.
In the said Twitter post, both Remulla and Revilla were accused of vote-buying.
However, Remulla said there was nothing irregular with the presence of his watchers in his campaign since “each party is entitled to a watcher per precinct.”
He added that his party “can produce the app which details the operation of the watchers.” He also stressed that they “are looking forward to a clean and proper elections.”
“We do not need to buy votes. We are comfortable with our standings,” he stated.
Remulla also hopes that “the authorities will use their powers judiciously” as he said his party welcomes the police “to watch and observe our watchers’ training next week.”
“We are concerned that this incident will be twisted by our opponents. As all is fair in times of political fights, we are confident that the people will see this as a misunderstanding and that the elections will proceed with the people’s mandate at stake,” he said.
“We are thankful that no acts of violence occured and that our volunteers have been fairly accommodated at the CIDG headquarters,” he concluded.
Revilla, who is gunning for his third and last term as an unopposed candidated, backed Remulla and said the individuals involved are watchers of the governor.
“Allow me to emphasize that I am running unopposed. The persons involved in the incident, as per statement issued by Gov. Jonvic, are his watchers undergoing training or seminar. This is normal and in fact, necessary in every elections. So let us please be guided by this. At any rate, I am confident that the issue will be easily clarified and resolved,” Remulla said in a statement sent to the Manila Bulletin.
Meanwhile, Police Colonel Cajipe said the 10 suspects were brought to the CIDG Cavite Provincial Field Unit office for documentation and proper disposition.
They will face charges for violating Article XXII, Section 261, paragraph (a) (vote-buying) of the Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 or the Omnibus Election Code.