FORMER Toledo City election officer Michael Angelo Sarno was invited for questioning early dawn yesterday after he was seen getting documents from inside his old office.
But the election officer left after clarifying his “clean intentions” with Supt. Samuel Valenzuela Mina Jr., chief of Toledo’s police force.
“I will make it clear. He was not arrested. He was only invited to defuse the tension,” Mina told reporters yesterday.
He said there was no truth to the allegation that Sarno stole a list of voters. Sarno is now the Cebu City South election officer.
It was Roseller Rafols Layar, 28, from Barangay Poblacion who went to the city’s police and reported that he saw Sarno getting documents from inside his former office past midnight.
Some supporters of Mayor Sonny Osmeña reportedly blocked Sarno when he was about to leave the office, with an envelope.
But Talavera Barangay Captain Nick Mahinog, who was also called to respond, explained that Sarno merely took personal belongings.
Why was he there so late? Mahinog said he learned from Sarno that the latter did not want to invite attention in leaving his office so he choose to do it at nighttime.
Mahinog and Civil Security Unit chief Iñaki Jordano, who checked what Sarno took from the office, confirmed that these were all personal effects and that no records “that could raise doubts” were taken.
Last April 1, newly assumed Cebu Election Supervisor Eliseo Labaria reshuffled election officers, including Sarno.
Sarno’s brother, Lapu-Lapu City Election Officer Marchel Sarno, said that Michael only went to the Comelec Toledo City office to get the documents for a family-related civil case.
Marchel told reporters that his brother planned to visit their family in Calatrava, Negros after getting the court documents he had left in the Comelec-Toledo City office.
“Kon kinsa tong malisyoso moingon man dayon nga ah dili to personal documents (Some malicious people right away suspect that those were not personal documents),” said Marchel.
He further said that Michael couldn’t possibly sabotage any voters list because it’s the Commission on Elections (Comelec) head office that prints these lists.
“Ang mga ballot...vote counting machines, wa pa miabot. Dili ma-edit ang voters list (The ballots and the vote counting machines have not yet arrived. The voters list cannot be edited),” said Marchel.
In television reports, Michael said he had no other motive when he visited his former office.
He left the police station at 4 a.m. yesterday, after current Toledo City Election Officer Galardo Escobar verified that the documents with him were private ones.
Mina said that Sarno’s private vehicle was also checked with the election officer’s consent and in the presence of supporters of Mayor Sonny Osmeña, who is seeking a fresh term, and his opponent Aurelio Espinosa.
The police official said they found no election-related materials inside the vehicle.
“This is an isolated incident,” said Mina.
He said they only invited Sarno to the police station after supporters of Osmeña and Espinosa gathered outside the Comelec office.