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President Aquino’s party split in Ilocos Sur

VIGAN CITY—The administration’s Liberal Party (LP) is feuding over its standard-bearer in the May 28 special elections for the replacement of former Ilocos Sur congressman, and convicted drug trafficker Ronald Singson.

Singson was expelled from Congress after he was sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Wan Chai District Court in Hong Kong, for bringing cocaine into the southern Chinese territory for his personal use.

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He was caught with 0.24 ounces (6.67 grams) of cocaine in July, 2010 while transiting through Hong Kong’s airport en route to the gambling enclave of Macau. He pleaded guilty to a charge of trafficking in a dangerous drug.

The LP had endorsed lawyer Beltran Baterina, the party’s first district chair.

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But Vigan City Councilor Francisco Ranches Jr., the party’s Ilocos Sur chair, is backing Vigan City Vice Mayor Ryan Luis Singson, the former lawmaker’s brother and younger son of Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson.

“[My support for Ryan Singson] is a personal endorsement. My basis is our common development agenda,” Ranches said.

Ranches said Baterina never approached him, or consulted him on his candidacy.

The LP official said Baterina would be running as an independent candidate because the party nomination was not submitted to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on time. Comelec set May 9 to 13 as the period for filing of candidacies.

Efren Rafanan, Baterina’s campaign manager, said his camp got the party nomination before the deadline on May 13, and dismissed the impact of Ranches’ endorsement.

“It is his personal endorsement. We still believe that this election happened because of Divine intervention,” Rafanan said.

He said Baterina’s platform advocates change and reforms for the district and the whole province. Rafanan is a member of the Partido ng Masang Pilipino.

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Ranches said his support for Vice Mayor Singson is backed by other LP members. He said the LP national council has not prevented him from backing the young Singson which, he said, expresses the LP’s policy on political dynamism.

Vice Mayor Singson is running under his father’s Bileg local party.

Both groups mounted their last campaign sorties on May 26. Singson led a motorcade around the district, while Baterina’s group motored through Sinait and Cabugao towns.

Manual elections will start at 7 a.m. on May 28 and will end at 3 p.m. The first district, which covers Vigan and 10 other towns, has 161,975 registered voters.

In Dagupan City, the Comelec has directed election supervisors to gather 199 ballot boxes from 32 towns and two cities of Pangasinan on June 2, as it begins hearing former Gov. Victor Agbayani’s electoral protest against Gov. Amado Espino Jr.

Provincial election supervisor Temie Lambino said 10 teams will collect the ballot boxes and deliver these to the provincial Comelec office.

The ballot boxes will be sealed on June 1 and shipped to the Comelec office in Manila for examination.

Lambino said the 199 ballot boxes represent 20 percent of 2,135 precincts in Pangasinan. Election laws require poll officials to first open 20 percent of the contested ballots before they decide whether to proceed or not with the mandatory manual counting.

Agbayani served as governor for three consecutive terms from 1998 to 2007. His wife, Jamie Eloise, ran in the May 2007 elections but lost to Espino by 35,000 votes.

In 2010, Agbayani ran, but lost to Espino by more than 500,000 votes.

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TAGS: Commission on Elections, Congress, Drug trafficking, Liberal Party, Partido ng Masang Pilipino, Politics, President Benigno Aquino III
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