Police chief, 3 cops relieved for escorting brawl-seeking mayor

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CEBU CITY, Philippines—The police chief and three policemen of Pulupandan town in Negros Occidental were relieved Tuesday for allegedly acting as escorts of Mayor Magdaleno Peña when he went to the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City on Monday to challenge provincial official to a boxing match.

Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, Negros Occidental police director, said he ordered the relief of the Pulupandan police chief Senior Inspector Edcel Balibadlan and three other policemen, whom he has yet to name.

Guara said Balibadlan and three others were relieved pending investigation of media reports, including television footage, showing them accompanying the mayor.

He added that a replacement police had yet to be named, as of Tuesday.

The relief was done with the approval of the Commission on Elections, provincial elections supervisor Wil Arceno said.

Arceno said that under the rules, only the governor and congressmen are allowed police escorts during the election campaign.

He said policemen who would act as escorts to a mayor during the election period would be considered as having committed an election offense.

However, Balibadlan explained that he was on his way to the Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office in Bacolod City to submit a report on their checkpoint compliance when he was informed that the mayor had gone to the Capitol.

He said he was not acting as an escort of the mayor but had gone to the Capitol to try to pacify Peña, who in fact had scolded him.

Peña also maintained that Balibadlan and the other policemen were not with him.

“I don’t know where the police chief and his men came from. They were in Bacolod and maybe they wanted to watch the debate so they went to the Capitol,” he said.

The mayor pointed out that he got down from his Dodge Challenger sports car alone when he arrived at the Capitol.

The mayor arrived at the Capitol at about 10:45 a.m. Monday followed by the police car carrying Balibadlan and the mayor’s staff on board a Nissan Serena.

Peña had gone to the Provincial Capitol Monday to challenge Jose Ma. Valencia, chief of staff of Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., to a boxing bout at the Social Hall.

Wearing what he called his Jean-Claude Van Damme outfit, Peña flexed his muscles and, followed by Balibadlan, three policemen and some members of the Peña’s staff, went directly to the social hall of the Capitol shouting, “Joval, make my day!”

However, Valencia did not show up, saying he did not want to stoop to Peña’s level.

Peña, in response to the non-appearance of Valencia, chanted “pokpokpokpokak, pokpokpokpokak, chicken, chicken, chicken” and left the Capitol at 11:20 a.m., disappointed that Valencia did not make his day.

Peña, a relative of Vice Governor Genaro Alvarez Jr., who he said would win the governorship in May, explained that he wanted a boxing match with Valencia and a debate with Marañon over what he claimed was the overpriced purchase of sheep from Australia by the Negros Occidental provincial government.

Marañon has denied Peña’s claim and has refused a debate with Peña. The governor said any debate should be between him and Alvarez, his opponent in the gubernatorial race.

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