MOISES Padilla Vice Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo and her husband are facing charges for illegal possession of explosives, a non-bailable offense.
The vice mayor and her husband, Felix Yulo III, were arrested in a police checkpoint Tuesday night at Crossing Magallon, Moises Padilla for alleged possession of firearms, grenades and illegal drugs.
The illegal possession of explosives case was filed before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Bacolod City on Wednesday.
As this developed, Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said he “sympathized” with Yulo although he refused to further comment.
“Ang akon masiling, kinahanglan insakto gid bala. Let justice seek its course, nga wala sang mga unlawful things na ginhimo,” the governor said.
Asked if he will help the vice mayor should she seek for Capitol assistance, Marañon said “we will see.”
Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Castil Jr., director of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, said in a statement that a fact-finding committee was created to investigate the case of Yulo.
“This is to validate all allegations about the case. The committee will consider all angles of the investigation especially on the gathering of other evidences,” the statement said.
Castil directed the fact-finding committee to maintain the standards of professionalism in the conduct of the investigation and to stay neutral.
He appealed to the public especially those who have witnessed the incident to come out in the open so they can bring out the truth.
Based on the blotter report released by Superintendent Gilbert Gorero, spokesperson of Police Regional Office-Western Visayas, the town police was conducting checkpoint when they saw the “suspicious-looking” Mitsubishi Strada driven by the vice mayor’s husband.
They flagged down the vehicle, and the vice mayor opened the door of the passenger’s side.
“Then and there in plain view, the troops saw a caliber .45 pistol placed besides the driver’s seat and further recovered from suspect’s possession and control two hand grenades, two heat-sealed plastic sachets of suspected ‘shabu’, three caliber .45 pistols with ammunition, and P45,000 cash,” the report said.
In an earlier interview, Yulo cried harassment as she accused the town police led by Chief Inspector Allan Reloj of manhandling them.
Reloj said there was no harassment during the operation.
He pointed out that they only did a visual search on the vehicle, and did not drag the vice mayor out, adding that it was she who got out of the car and curse him.
He said proper protocol was followed during the checkpoint.
Reloj also said that the couple, whom he alleged as drug personalities, were under surveillance for quite some time now.
He added that they submitted the couple for a drug test.
Reloj said additional cases will be filed against the couple. These include charges for illegal possession of drugs and firearms, and direct assault.
Reloj in various interviews with the local media seemed to have inconsistent statements on where exactly they found the grenades and firearms inside the vehicle.
The town police chief, in a phone interview with SunStar Bacolod, said they recovered the grenades and firearms at the gear shift while they found the drugs at the backseat of the passenger’s side.
He reiterated that it was discovered through plain view.
However, in his interview with ABS-CBN Bacolod, Reloj said they noticed a firearm on the husband’s lap while the grenade was found at the passenger’s seat.
Bombo Radyo Bacolod, based on their interview with Reloj, reported that the firearms were found at the gear shift, side pocket of the driver’s door, and under the passenger’s seat.
Reloj told Aksyon Radyo Bacolod they saw the firearm at the “side” during the visual search while they found the two other firearms under the seat.
The vice mayor, in an interview with SunStar Bacolod Wednesday, maintained she was harassed during the checkpoint as she vehemently denied the allegations.
She insisted that the grenades, firearms and drugs were planted.
The vice mayor also denied the allegations of Reloj that she has links to the New People’s Army, a claim that was supported by the Philippine Army.
Col. Eliezer Lozañes, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said they have not monitored a connection between the vice mayor and the communist rebels.
Anthony Nuyda, director of Department of the Interior and Local Government in Western Visayas, said that members of the Sangguniang Bayan will elect among themselves who will be the presiding officer in lieu of Yulo’s “temporary absence.”
If the vice mayoral post will be permanently vacated, the number one councilor will assume the post, based on the rule of succession. (with reports from Glazyl Y. Masculino)