The Rizal provincial government has confirmed that the nine men who were arrested for violating the election gun ban in Antipolo City on Sunday night were provincial jail personnel although it has not offered an explanation for why they were carrying firearms and chairs bearing the name of Rizal Gov. Casimiro Ynares III inside a government vehicle.
Relly Bernardo, provincial information officer, said that Leonard Mateo, 41; Noel Cervo, 47; Reynaldo Cerda, 63; Raldy Gregorio, 25; Ascher Maghintang, 26; Christoper Rebong, 36; Julius Benico, 34; Ronald Ted Esguerra, 52; and Clement Bundang were employees of the Rizal provincial jail headed by Supt. Wenceslao Ornido.
When pressed for more details, Bernardo declined to comment further and referred the Inquirer to Ornido. A staffer of Ornido, however, said that he was in a meeting.
The nine men are facing charges for violating the Omnibus Election Code after three .45-cal. firearms, two .38-cal. pistols and two knives were found inside the white Kia van they were riding in at a checkpoint set up by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Sumulong Highway.
Detained at the Rizal Provincial Police Office, they have refused to give any information to authorities.
Based on records of the Philippine National Police Firearms and Explosives Division in Camp Crame, three of the firearms were registered to the provincial government and one to the Bago City government. Cerda, meanwhile, had applied for a permit for the fifth firearm.
On the other hand, a check with the Land Transportation Office showed that the van with government plate SHV 268 was registered in the name of the Rizal provincial government, two police officials told the Inquirer. They requested that they not be identified for lack of authority to speak on the matter.
Also found inside the van were monobloc chairs bearing the name of Ynares III who is running for Antipolo mayor against incumbent Mayor Nilo Leyble.
Before the arrest of the nine men, several explosive devices were discovered at the RMC Compound in Barangay San Luis where the Liberal Party headquarters frequented by Leyble and his supporters is located.
In a statement, Leyble said the “unprecedented increase” in the number of “election-related incidents” in the area was “very alarming.”
“Never in the history of Antipolo have we encountered so many guns and goons,” he added.