May 14th, 2010
MARK DALAN MERUEÑAS, GMANews.TV
Hundreds of supporters of a losing congressional candidate in the island province of Biliran in Eastern Visayas have gathered outside the capitol hall to protest election results there, the local police said.
Senior Superintendent Wilson Caubat, provincial police director, said supporters of outgoing Rep. Glenn Chong wanted to prevent election officers from transporting 171 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines from the capitol hall of Naval town to Tacloban City.
“It was their spontaneous expression of indignation for the supposed injustice. Emotions ran high but we observed maximum tolerance,” Caubat told GMANews.TV over the phone.
The supporters, according to Caubat, alleged that elections in the province were rigged in favor of Chong’s rival, outgoing Governor Rogelio Espina, who had already been proclaimed as congressman last May 11, a day after the elections.
The mob, which started to gather around 12 noon Wednesday, has virtually surrounded the capitol hall building where they held a prayer vigil.
Caubat said people from the mob frisked individuals going out of the capitol hall building to ensure no compact flash cards were being taken away. A municipal hall employee lost her money from the frisking.
The protest action disrupted operations at the capitol hall building. Caubang said operations might resume Friday.
Chong’s supporters only agreed to voluntarily disperse after several of their representatives were allowed to go with Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials and volunteers from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in transporting the PCOS machines.
“Kasama sila sa paglipat. Bubuksan sa harap nila ang truck pagdating sa Tacloban City para may visuals sila (Some of the supporters were allowed to go along with Comelec officials and PPCRV volunteers in transporting the machines),” he said.
The PCOS machines were transported to Tacloban at around 2 p.m. Thursday.
As of posting time only a “handful” of protesters remain gathered outside the building, and policemen had barricaded the vicinity to prevent more supporters from going back near the capitol hall.
Caubat said they had also been preventing food and water from reaching the protesters.
Espina was proclaimed the winning congressman of Biliran’s lone district on May 11, a day after the elections.
His vacated post as governor was taken over by his brother Gerardo “Gerry” Espina Jr. The two brothers belong to an influential clan in the island province.
Clan patriarch Gerardo Espina Sr was a former congressman and leads the current Kawayan town mayoral race. His other son Rodolfo was the town’s outgoing mayor and is now leading the vice mayoral race in Kawayan town.
In the middle of the protest action, a supporter of Chong was shot wounded in the chest some 300 meters away from the capitol hall building around Wednsday midnight.
The wounded man – initially identified as one ‘Tumamak’- is still being treated at a nearby hospital.
Caubat was quick to stress that the shooting incident “had no connection” with the protest action at the capitol hall.
“Malabo naman na tao ni Espina kasi nga panalo na sila, bakit pa nila gagawin iyon [It could not have been the camp of Espinas because they had already won in the elections],” he said.- KBK, GMANews.TV
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