Mayor locked in town hall by foes for alleged vote-buying
LUCENA CITY–Tension rose in Catanauan town in Quezon province hours before the precincts opened on Monday for the national elections after supporters of a mayoral candidate locked the gates of the town hall, effectively detaining the incumbent mayor and his group in the compound.
Chief Insp. Arvin de Asis, Catanauan police chief, said about 200 people, including members of militant groups and campaign workers of Liberal Party (LP) mayoral candidate Bas Serrano, padlocked the three gates of the town hall compound at 1:30 a.m.
De Asis said Catanauan Mayor Ramon Orfanel and his group were forced to stay inside the compound.
The group outside the gates claimed Orfanel’s group was conducting vote-buying and other illegal activities inside the town hall to sabotage the local election, De Asis said.
Orfanel’s wife, Almira, is running for mayor under the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), aiming to replace her husband, who is on his third and last term.
De Asis said they tried to reach out to the warring camps to avoid violence.
“We prevented the two camps from clashing. We let the tension cool down before we made our move,” De Asis said in a telephone interview.
After more than four hours and with the intervention of a local priest, Commission on Elections officials and Army soldiers, policemen broke open the town hall’s gates to allow Orfanel and his group to leave.
In a telephone interview, Orfanel said he would file cases of illegal detention and direct assault against the people who padlocked the town hall gates, including their leaders.
He said the incident was recorded by closed circuit television cameras installed in the compound.
Orfanel denied that his group was plotting to sabotage the conduct of the elections.
He said he asked representatives of the police, military, church and the Comelec to inspect the town hall and its premises to look for evidence of any illegal activity but they found nothing.
“The truth is we were conducting a meeting and taking our midnight snack of hot porridge with some of our campaign workers [when the incident happened],” Orfanel said./rga
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