Barangay exec embroiled in ‘Navotas political rivalry’ seeks DOJ help
MANILA, Philippines — A barangay (village) chairman facing kidnapping charges sought the help of President Rodrigo Duterte, claiming he was merely a victim of a political war involving Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco.
In a letter addressed to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra dated January 14, Barangay Tango Chairman Wilfredo Mariano claimed that during the May 2019 elections, a group of men arrived at their barangay hall.
Along with the group was a man later identified as Rommel Sopera, who was wearing a shirt of the then mayoralty candidate Tiangco.
Mariano said that the group of men accused Sopera of vote-buying and thereafter, they immediately left the barangay hall.
“Dahil walang complainant, minabuti ko na lang pong kausapin ang naturang lalaki na noon ay namumutla pa. Binigyan ko po siya ng tubig na maiinom at nagpakilala siyang… siya ay si Rommel Sopera, driver sa Navotas City Hall,” Mariano claimed.
(Since there is no complainant, I talked to the man who was a bit shaken and looking pale at the moment. I gave him water and he introduced himself as Rommel Sopera, a driver at the Navotas City Hall.)
Mariano said that during their conversation, Sopera claimed that the group took his cellphone and P8,200 of his P12,000 cash.
“Kaya po tinulungan ko siyang gumawa ng reklamo at i-blotter ito. Matapos ito, pinasamahan ko po siya sa dalawa sa aming tanod papunta sa kanyang motor para siguraduhin na ligtas siya papunta sa kinaroroonan ng kamyang motor,” Mariano said.
(I helped him draft a complaint and file a police blotter. After this, I had him accompanied by two barangay tanods to his motor to ensure his safety on his way to his motor.)
Complaint vs Mariano
After that encounter, Mariano said that he has not seen Sopera since.
But in July 2019, Mariano said he received a subpoena for charges of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention, Robbery and Violation of Omnibus Election Code, which was filed by Sopera.
Aside from Mariano, two others—Atty. Rico De Guzman and Rolando Morato—were also named respondents in the case.
Mariano said he knew De Guzman, who ran against Tiangco for a congressional post back in 2013, but insisted that he does not know Morato.
Morato was identified as the driver of the van used to bring Sopera to the barangay hall.
Seeking for help
Mariano said he received a resolution from the fiscal of Navotas recommending the filing of kidnapping charges against him and Morato.
He then sought the help of Tiangco who asked him to turn over documents related to the case.
Mariano said that he was asked to return to Tiangco’s office one or two days after where the mayor allegedly asked him the names of the men who brought Sopera to the barangay hall.
According to Mariano, Tiangco said: “Mabigat itong kaso mo. Mahirap ito. Ituro mo na lang yung dalawa pang kasama mo para maayos natin ito.”
(What you have is a serious case. Why don’t you just pinpoint where are your two companions so we can have this settled.)
“Nung sinabi ko po sa kanya (Tiangco) na hindi ko talaga kilala ang mga taong nagdala kay Sopera sa barangay hall namin, sinagot niya ko na, ‘Itanong mo sa Pareng Gardy mo,’” Mariano said.
(When I told Tinagco that I do not know the men who brought Sopera to our barangay hall, he said, ‘Ask your friend Gardy.’)
The barangay chairman said Tiangco was referring to former Navotas City Vice Mayor Lutgardo “Gardy” Cruz whose son ran as the city’s vice mayor against Tiangco’s party in May 2019 elections.
“Hindi ko po sinasabing pine-pressure ako ni Mayor Toby na idamay ang pamilya Cruz na kalaban siya sa pulitika. Pero maliwanag naman po siguro na may kulay-pulitika ang kasong aking kinakaharap,” Mariano said.
(I am not saying that Mayor Toby was pressuring me to link the Cruz family who are perceived political rivals. But it is clear that my case is tainted with politics.)
“Bakit po ako pipilitin na ituro ang mga nagdala kay Sopera na hindi ko naman talaga kilala at sinabing itanong ko daw kay Pareng Gardy na para bang ini-insinuate na kilala o may kinalaman ang pamilya Cruz sa pangyayaring iyon?”
(Why would I be coerced to identify the men who brought Sopera who I do not really know and tell me to ask my friend Gardy as if insinuating that the Cruz family are involved in the incident?)
Mariano said that Tiangco told him that a lawyer will be provided for him.
But the barangay chairman said that to his knowledge, it was also Tiangco who gave a lawyer for Sopera.
“Parang nakakalito. Si Sopera po ang nagreklamo sa akin pero magiging isang kampo lamang po ang aming mga abogado,” Mariano said.
(It seems confusing. Sopera was the one who lodged a complaint against me but our lawyers would come from one and the same side.)
Victim of political war
Mariano said he learned that a decision on their Motion for Reconsideration will be released on Friday, January 17.
“Kami daw ay sasampahan na ng kaso sa korte. Pag lumabas po ang warrant nito, sigurado pong makukulong agad ako dahil non-bailable po ang kasong isasampa laban sa amin,” the barangay chairman said.
(We heard we would be charged before the court. Once the warrant comes out, I would be put in jail for sure since the case that would be filed against us is non-bailable.)
The barangay chairman said that Tiangco’s camp already won in the elections, adding that he does not care about the issues between the mayor and his political foes.
“Wala naman po kaming pakialam dun kaya lang po, pati kaming nasa ibaba ay nadadamay, at hindi po simpleng nadadamay. Buhay na po namin ang nakasalang at kinabukasan po ng aming pamilya ang nakasalalay,” Mariano said.
(We do not care about that however, we at the bottom are being dragged into it, and we are not simply dragged into it. Our lives are at stake as well as the future of our families.)
Mariano added that he fears not only for himself but also for his family.
“Nadadamay po ako sa laban sa pulitika ni Mayor Toby. Kung ngayon demanda para sa kasong non-bailable ang kinakaharap ko, ano pa kaya ang susunod?” the barangay chairman said.
(I am being dragged into the political rivalry of Mayor Toby. If I am now facing a non-bailable case, what’s next?)
Mariano then asked the justice department, as well as the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Office of the President (OP) to investigate his case, saying that he merely did his duties as barangay chairman.
In a text message to INQUIRER.net, Tiangco said he is not a party to the case, adding that he does not have a copy of Mariano’s letter.
Edited by JPV
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