“IT WAS a frame-up.”
This was how Cebu City Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Federation president Jessica Resch described the arrest of two Barangay Cogon Central Ramos SK members and two other youth volunteers after they were allegedly caught in the act of vote buying.
The evidence against the arrested persons was planted, according to the SK officials.
Authorities arrested SK councilor Kyle Baricuatro, 21; SK secretary John Paul Mahinay, 18; Anjo Pepito, 31; and Theodore Pepito, 33, for the alleged violation of Section 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code.
They were allegedly caught placing bills inside envelopes with sample ballots of Cebu City Councilor Jerry Guardo, who is seeking reelection under Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK).
Mahinay and Baricuatro were arrested by personnel of the City Mobile Force Company (CMFC) of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) at 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, in Cogon Central Ramos.
Theodore and Anjo Pepito were also arrested because they allegedly received the envelopes.
A source from CCPO told Superbalita Cebu that they received a report from a concerned citizen about armed persons roaming in Cogon Central Ramos.
When the CMFC team arrived in the area, they caught Mahinay handing out the envelopes and telling the Pepitos to vote for Guardo of BOPK.
BOPK’s head is the reelectionist Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who is at odds with local police.
After he learned about the arrest of the SK officials, Osmeña went to the CCPO’s headquarters on Gorrordo Ave. to meet the detainees, but the camp’s personnel prevented him from entering.
According to the police blotter, the operatives seized from the suspects an envelope containing P200, flyers and posters of Guardo and cash amounting to P4,800.
According to SK Federation vice president Joseph Gepte, the P200 inside the envelope was for the basketball players’ cash subsidy for their uniforms. The money was donated by private individuals for the SK’s summer basketball league.
The envelopes did not contain flyers, he said.
Gepte said the police planted the evidence on the suspects. The CMFC personnel allegedly forced the suspects to hold posters of Guardo when the former took pictures of them.
“We all know that there was P200 inside the envelope but there were no flyers of Councilor Jerry Guardo. It’s only the cash subsidy for their uniform allowances,” he said.
Past 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 12, SK officials led by Resch held a prayer rally outside the CCPO where the arrested persons are detained.
They condemned the arrest and asked for their release, saying Baricuatro and Mahinay did not buy votes.
But for CCPO Director Royina Garma, no one is above the law.
She denied her personnel framed the suspects.
“Okay, granting they were framed... Why? Were they present at the time? Those present during the prayer rally, were they in the area where the suspects were caught? So if they feel there was a frame-up because that is the truth for them, then they should execute an affidavit and say it was a frame-up and they should support it,” Garma said.
On Tuesday, May 14, the suspects will be charged with vote buying before the city prosecutor’s office.
As for the loud music they played while the SK officials were holding a prayer rally, Garma said it was meant to calm her tired personnel.
If the protesters wanted to hold a prayer rally, they should have done it in front of a church, she said.
“The camp is not a church. The proper place to pray, if they want a very solemn place, is the church. There are several churches here. This is a camp. we want it to be alive and gusto ko may music kase inantok na kami; pagod na kami (I want music because we are sleepy; we are tired),” she said.
Meanwhile, Acting Cebu City North District Election Officer Chauncey Boholst said he will wait for CCPO’s formal report on the incident.
He said he could not yet conclude if the SK officials committed vote buying because he still has to check the evidence.
He said they will be following the case because the allegations against the SK officials are grave.
“We will monitor this closely because that is a serious accusation, especially now in Cebu City that we are very firm in implementing the law,” Boholst said. (WBS, FROM AYB & PAC OF SUPERBALITA CEBU / KAL)