‘Epal’ bets face troops in Pangasinan
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DAGUPAN CITY—Angered by local candidates’ disrespect, the Commission on Elections provincial office here on Tuesday vowed to exact vengeance by removing all illegal campaign materials that are blanketing the city and calling in the military to enforce election rules.
Lawyer Marino Salas, provincial election supervisor, said violations of the Fair Elections Act had become so blatant, with all posters and billboards hanging outside authorized common poster areas here.
“We now have orders. This will be a massive operation. We just don’t want to spoil the Bangus Festival celebration,” said Salas on Tuesday.
This city is celebrating the Bangus Festival until May 3. The event’s highlight, the Bangusan street party, was held on Tuesday.
“We don’t care who will get angry at us. We will just do our job. Please, just wait,” said Salas.
The mayoral race here is an intense contest between reelectionist Mayor Benjamin Lim, who is running under the Nacionalista Party, and Vice Mayor Belen Fernandez, a Liberal Party candidate.
This city belongs to Pangasinan’s fourth district, where reelectionist Rep. Gina de Venecia, a Nationalist People’s Coalition candidate, is virtually running unopposed because her opponent, Celia Lim, the mayor’s wife, has not been campaigning.
Salas said that three times in the past two months, he had led the police in dismantling illegal posters and billboards around the city.
But he said that for every one illegal poster that they remove, five posters would eventually replace it.
Under the law, posting or displaying any election campaign material outside authorized common poster areas, in public places, or in private property without the consent of the owner, is illegal.
He said he had sent notices to candidates to ask them to remove their illegal campaign posters.
“As much as possible, we don’t want to be drastic but they (local candidates) seem to be telling us right in our faces that we are inutile. This is already disrespect,” Salas said
In other parts of Pangasinan, he said local candidates have been following the law.
This city is among the 14 towns and cities in Pangasinan which have been tagged as “areas of concern.”
Salas said initially, one of the two tanks that the Army had sent to the province was supposed to be stationed in this city but he said he recalled it.
“But if that is what they are doing to us, we will deploy the tank and the Army in Dagupan,” said Salas, who chairs the province’s Joint Security Coordinating Center.
He said soldiers are in the city to help secure the Bangus Festival celebration.
“But because of these violations, we received an order to deploy more [soldiers] here and I’m just waiting for the arrival of five more platoons, more than 100 soldiers. Most of them will be in Dagupan,” he said. Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon