Zambales mayor facing rape rap running unopposed

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SAN MARCELINO Mayor Jose Rodriguez during a political rally last year. ROBERT GONZAGA/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

OLONGAPO CITY—A Zambales town mayor, who is undergoing trial for allegedly raping a 12-year-old girl in 2010, is running unopposed in the May 13 elections.

San Marcelino Mayor Jose Rodriguez is a reelectionist candidate.

In January 2011, Rodriguez pleaded innocent when he was arraigned for violation of Republic Act No. 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act) in the Regional Trial Court Branch 72 here.

Joy Bayona, associate provincial prosecutor, filed an amended complaint against Rodriguez after the court dismissed the trafficking charges under Section 4 of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 (RA 9208). She cited Section 11 of RA 9208 for “use of trafficked persons.”

Bayona also sued Jonie Ponce, also known as “Jodie,” for bringing the girl to the mayor’s rest house in San Marcelino town.

In an earlier statement, Rodriguez said the charges were meant to destroy his reputation and cause “political turmoil” in his town.

The girl’s mother, in a telephone interview on Monday, said Rodriguez has been free to campaign, “while my daughter is under the care of the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development).”

“Sometimes, my daughter tells me that Rodriguez should be the one in jail, [because] she is the one who feels [trapped] in her situation,” the mother said.

Asked why Rodriguez has no rival candidate from the Liberal Party, former Zambales governor and party leader, Amor Deloso, said LP failed to field a candidate in San Marcelino because the mayor’s decision to run was made at the last minute.

Deloso is challenging Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane.

The trial had been transferred from an Olongapo court to a court in Metro Manila following a resolution from the Supreme Court, which heeded the girl’s mother’s fears that the authority and influence that Rodriguez wields in the town may discourage her daughter from testifying for fear of her life.

“[The fact that Rodriguez is running unopposed] shows how influential he really is and how much in danger my daughter is, which is why we moved the trial to Manila, for our safety,” the mother said.

She said the trial’s last session was on April 30. The court set the next hearing date on June 11.

Genia Eclarino, DSWD Olongapo director, said social workers who rescued the girl from Rodriguez’s rest house in San Marcelino are scheduled to give their testimony in June.

Eclarino said the girl is turning 16 in November this year.

The girl’s mother said nothing happened with their appeal to the Department of the Interior and Local Government to remove Rodriguez from office.

“They didn’t do anything about it. And now Rodriguez only needs just one vote to win as mayor of San Marcelino again, while we still fear [for our lives] due to his influence,” she said.

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