Don’t run for governor, gunmen tell Sorsogon bet
LEGAZPI CITY—With a gun pointed at his head, a gubernatorial candidate in Sorsogon province was asked by a group of unidentified men to drop his candidacy during a campaign sortie in Sorsogon City on Sunday.
“Do you want me to put a bullet to your head?” Eric Dioneda, a candidate of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan, quoted one of the men as saying.
Dioneda went down on his knees and held his hands up. “The man then told me to back out of the gubernatorial race and then they left,” he said.
Senior Supt. Ronaldo Cabral, Sorsogon provincial police director, said the candidate was approached by armed men, who police suspected to be communist rebels, in Barangay Buhatan at 7:45 p.m.
The men, who were carrying sacks loaded with rifles, entered the compound of the barangay hall several minutes after the sortie started, Dioneda said. He said that when he heard a commotion, one of his supporters approached him to tell about the intruders’ presence.
“When I faced [the armed men] and asked what the problem was, they cursed and poked a gun at me,” he said.
Eight candidates are running for governor in Sorsogon, five of them independents.
Dioneda earlier suspected that his rival, Robert Lee Rodrigueza, a candidate of the Liberal Party, as behind the harassment. But Rodrigueza denied the allegation and said the incident was “scripted.”
“They are creating this scenario to gain sympathy from [voters],” he said, adding that his camp would never resort to using violence or intimidation.
During the filing of candidacy at the Commission on Elections office last year, Dioneda and Lee shook hands and promised that they would work to ensure peaceful elections.
Cabral said the incident had nothing to with political rivalry because no private armed groups operated in Sorsogon.
He said New People’s Army rebels had already admitted that they were responsible, noting that the incident was related to the collection of the rebels’ permit to campaign fee.
“Our concern and challenge now is to guard [the city] from a possible attack, since we have reliable information that [rebels were seen in the city],” he said.
Police are checking footage of a security camera, hoping to identity the armed men.
Senior Insp. Malu Calubaquib, spokesperson of the Bicol regional police, said police officials were studying the possibility of classifying Sorsogon as an area of “immediate concern” for the elections.
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