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SunStar: Amid boos, jeers, congressional winner proclaimed in Bogo, Cebu

July 10, 2007 6:47am
Angry political supporters prevented armed policemen from taking into custody ballot boxes at the Bogo City Hall, but could not prevent the proclamation of the city’s congressman.

Sun-Star Cebu (www.sunstar.com.ph) reported that despite the row Monday, Benhur Salimbangon was proclaimed the winner in the fourth district congressional race.

Boos and jeers were hurled at Commission on Elections (Comelec) Cebu City North District Election Officer Marchel Sarno and Cebu City police director Sr. Supt. Carmelo Valmoria as election officials tried to get hold of the ballot boxes.

The Comelec’s special board of canvassers had tasked the two officials to take the ballot boxes to Manila.

A stampede nearly occurred as supporters snatched a ballot box that Sarno was planning to safeguard.

A shouting match also ensued between Bogo City Mayor Celestino “Junie" Martinez, Sarno and Valmoria earlier in the day, when they could not agree on how to implement the order.

Martinez refused to let the team bring the ballot boxes containing the election returns, saying he did not recognize the authority of SBOC Chairman Eddie Aba.

He said he would only let them leave with the boxes if they can show him a written order from the Comelec en banc.

Valmoria and Sarno received the orders Sunday. Valmoria sent a team to secure the ballot boxes. The team left Cebu City for Bogo and tried to locate City Treasurer Rhett Minguez, who had custody of the ERs.

Minguez could not be found in his residence and in his office, but staff members said the ballot boxes were stored at the general services office (GSO).

Police and the Comelec learned that the ERs for precincts 119B and 62A were already at the Comelec office in Bogo and that the ERs for precincts 117A and 19D were in the ballot boxes stored inside the GSO.

The argument began when a policeman was ordered to climb inside the locked GSO at the Bogo City Hall, where ballot boxes containing ERs were reportedly stored.

When police went to check the GSO, traffic enforcers occupying the office beside it said the staff left to “clean the streets."

Sarno said that since his order was to take custody of the ballot boxes, they should enter the office.

Valmoria then ordered a policeman from the special reaction unit to check through an opening whether he could see any ballot boxes inside.

He then ordered the policeman to enter through the opening and unlock the door.

At this point, legal consultant and former vice mayor Vicente Rodriguez appeared and questioned the police.

When Sarno explained that he had an order from Aba directing him to take custody of the ballot boxes, Rodriguez argued that they did not have to destroy anything.

Sarno urged Rodriguez to file a complaint if he had any problems with the implementation. At this, Martinez arrived and accused them of illegally entering the office.

Martinez questioned Valmoria, asking him why he was implementing an order that “is illegal."

To ease the tension, Valmoria and Sarno retreated to the Comelec office where Sarno called Aba and informed him of the incident. At 12:44 p.m., Aba issued another order and faxed it to them.

When police returned a second time around 1 p.m. they met more resistance as the door to the GSO was blocked by traffic enforcers and Martinez’s supporters.

Martinez said if the authorities did not want any trouble, they should present an order from the Comelec en banc and they will willingly let them go with the boxes.

Another shouting match ensued, this time, with his supporters chanting and jeering at the police and Comelec team.

The tension led Valmoria and Sarno to pull out one ballot box already at the Comelec Bogo office containing the ERs of precincts 119B and 62A to safeguard it.

However, a mob of supporters numbering about 500 blocked police, Sarno and the media.

One of them then snatched the ballot box from Sarno’s possession and brought it to the second floor of City Hall. - GMANews.TV
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