SORSOGON CITY, Philippines – The PDP-Laban party is asking the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to place Sorsogon Province and Sorsogon City under its  control to avoid an escalation of violence to bloodshed.

Former Sorsogon City Mayor Leovic Dioneda, who is running under the PDP-Laban banner in a bid to wrest the city mayoral seat from incumbent Sorsogon City Mayor Sahlee A. Lee, told this reporter, “hindi ako makapaniwala sa pangyayari” (I can’t believe of the incident) last Sunday, “dahil lahat ng ginagawa namin ay legal (because what we are doing are legal).

“Nagreport kami sa pulis. Gumawa kami ng letter sa Comelec lokal at Comelec Manila to put Sorsogon City and Sorsogon Province under Comelec control. (We reported the incident to the police and had requested to the Comelec to put Sorsogon city and Sorsogon province under Comelec control.)

Asked if he approves a proposal of independent Sorsogon gubernatorial candidate Bobby M. Reyes, who is running under the presidential tandem of Senators Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero, to postpone the local elections until after the presidential elections, former Mayor Dioneda said, “Hindi ko po sinasuggest yan. Ang kailangan lang namin ay madagdagan ang security sa probinsiya at sa Sorsogon city para maiwasan ang mga insidenteng puedeng lumala sa bloodshed. Yon lang ang hinihingi ng PDP Laban na sana maging Comelec control ang ating lugar,” (I did not suggest that. What we need is to shore up security in Sorsogon Province and Sorsogon City in order to avoid bloodshed. That’s what PDP-Laban is asking; that our place be placed under Comelec control).”

Meanwhile, police were still facing a blank wall in their efforts to identify the heavily armed men who barged last Sunday (April 3) in a PDP-Laban rally in Barangay Buhatan, which is less than one kilometer from the patriarchal home of Senator Escudero in Sorsogon City.

At least seven men armed with Armalite rifles disrupted the rally, telling the PDP-Laban politicians to stop their rally. The armed men also stole the politicians’ and staff’s bags containing cell phones, wallets and other valuables.

It was reported that the fair-skinned intruders could not have been members of the New People’s Army, whose skins are usually dark or inmates at the Sorsogon penitentiary, who are not exposed to sunlight.

They were caught on closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera while intruding into the rally.

The armed men asked for Eric Dioneda, who is the PDP-Laban gubernatorial candidate in Sorsogon Province and supporting the presidential bid of Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. The armed men ordered Dioneda to drop on his belly while pointing the barrel of a long firearm at his forehead. Instead of doing so, Dioneda merely raised his trembling hands while pleading to talk things over. He knelt while the barrel of the gun was trained at the back of his head.

Dioneda’s father, Leovic Dioneda, former Sorsogon City mayor who is running against incumbent Sorsogon City Mayor Lee in the May 9 mayoral elections, tried to go after the armed intruders but he was prevailed upon by his supporters to calm down. The elder Dioneda, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, was in another room of the barangay hall when the armed intruders threatened his son.

The armed men gave the impression that they are members of the New People’s Army, telling the Dionedas that they are disrespecting them by not asking from them “permit to campaign (PTC)” in NP territories “while the Escuderos respect us,” one of the armed men was quoted as saying.

Unconfirmed reports stated that the NPAs are demanding P1.2 million (US$26,086) from congressional candidate Edward Ong and P500,000 (US$10,869) from PDP-Laban local candidates so the politicians could be issued PTCs.

The elder Dioneda, 62, said he suspected the armed men were henchmen of his rivals because they were the only ones harassed while their rival candidates were not threatened.

A big contingent of Sorsogon policemen was deployed at the rally of the PDP-Laban in Barangay Bitan-o, Sorsogon City last April 6.

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A native of Sorsogon, Philippines, he and his family now live in Chicago. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.

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