Quezon mayor locked in town hall by foe’s allies | Inquirer News

Quezon mayor locked in town hall by foe’s allies

By: - Correspondent / @dtmallarijrINQ
/ 02:03 AM May 10, 2016

LUCENA CITY—A town mayor in Quezon province, who was suspected of buying votes, was locked up in the town hall hours before the polling precincts opened on Monday.

Tension rose for several hours after supporters of a mayoral candidate closed the gates of the town hall, effectively detaining Catanauan Mayor Ramon Orfanel and his group.

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 and former Mayor Sebastian Serrano, padlocked the three gates of the town hall compound at 1:30 a.m.


De Asis said Mayor 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 in the town hall to sabotage the local elections, 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 his men tried to reach out to the warring camps to avoid an outbreak of violence.

“We prevented the two camps from clashing. We let the tension cool down before we made our move,” the police official said in a telephone interview.

Gates opened

After more than four hours and through the intervention of a priest, Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials and 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 illegal detention and direct assault charges against people who padlocked the town hall, 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 none.

Midnight meeting

“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.

He said 10 of his allies went to the office of Sangguniang Bayan (town council) on the second floor of the town hall at 10 p.m. on Sunday to prepare for the elections.

Shortly before midnight, around 30 campaigners of his wife arrived at the town hall on motorcycles to join the first group.

“So, I called my wife and asked her to prepare porridge for the group,” Orfanel said.

He said he was surprised when he saw people massing up outside the town hall, prompting him to call the police.

But Serrano’s camp stood firm on its allegation that Orfanel’s group was up to buy votes.

Rensie Serrano, a nephew of Sebastian and LP candidate for town councilor, said his group was informed that his supporters were being taken to the town hall in jeepneys supposedly to be paid so they would not vote for Sebastian.

“We estimated that around 500 people, most of them our supporters, were taken to the town hall,” he said in a telephone interview.

Forced to stay

He said reports indicated that these people would be forced to stay at the town hall until they cast their votes.

“We don’t have lots of money to spend in this election compared with Orfanel,” Serrano said.

He also denied reports that his uncle’s supporters padlocked the town hall’s gates.

“We did not do that. There were many people around the town hall and most of them were against Orfanel,” Serrano said.

He said lawyers of his camp were preparing charges of vote-buying against Orfanel.

Jayson Ilagan, coordinator of the party-list group Anakpawis-Quezon, said he and nine other members of their group went to the town hall at 2 a.m. when they heard that there was vote-buying in the area.

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He said his group was not siding with anyone and went there to expose whoever was behind the supposed illegal election activity.

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