8 hurt in Lanao town hall clash
Soldiers and policemen recovered at least 100 sharpened bamboo poles, three bladed weapons and a slingshot inside the municipal building after the melee, said Lt. Col. Galileo Goyena Jr., commander of the Army’s 5th Mechanized Battalion.
The fight began when newly installed Mayor Florante Capitan arrived to formally assume his duties and responsibilities following a Supreme Court ruling that disqualified his predecessor, Rommel Arnado, from running in the 2013 elections.
Arnado’s supporters, who have been camping outside the town hall, prevented Capitan from entering the building, prompting the new mayor’s supporters to come to his aid. Soon after, a melee erupted.
A 16-year-old leukemia patient, who was accompanied by her mother to seek treatment at the municipal health center, was among those hit by wayward stones.
Capitan blamed Arnado for the violence on Tuesday, saying he had been feeding those who were manning the barricade. He claimed that six of his followers were among those injured.
But Dean Quijano, one of Arnado’s lawyers, said his client had no hand in the violence and that his supporters had acted on their own.
“What we are probably seeing here is the natural reaction of the people. They might have believed that they were also deprived of their right to choose when Arnado was unseated,” Quijano said. He denied that the food rationed to the protesters came from the ousted mayor.
He said Arnado, whom the Supreme Court unseated for repeatedly using his US passport even after winning the 2010 elections as mayor, had already stepped down and gave way to Capitan’s assumption.
In January, at least three civilians were wounded when armed men, allegedly led by Arnado, fired at tents set up by Capitan’s supporters outside the town hall. The shooting happened about an hour before the Commission on Elections implemented the gun ban.
Two days later, seven persons were injured in a clash between followers of the two politicians. Capitan’s group, backed by the camp of Casan Maquiling, another Arnado rival, tried to enter the town hall, claiming that Capitan had already been installed as mayor.
Soldiers have been deployed to prevent more violence from occurring. Capitan said he would wait for more police forces before formally assuming his post.
Lt. Col. Leomar Jose Doctolero, commander of the Army’s 15th Infantry Battalion, urged the camps of Arnado and Capitan to respect the rule of law. “We don’t take sides and I am calling on the supporters of both camps to avoid confrontation and violence to prevent bloodshed,” he said.
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