PNP-Cebu taking sides, Lacson says

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday asked the Commission on Elections to act on the intense political situation in Cebu City and accused the Philippine National Police of engaging in partisan politics there.

“Cebu City is a case of the PNP dipping their fingers into partisan local politics. The incumbent mayor has his hands full in dealing with his rival candidates and the city’s own police force. Comelec should

step in before things get out of hand,” said Lacson in his Twitter account.

On Monday, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said during a political rally that the current Cebu City Police Office commander, Royina Garma received P1 million in payoffs weekly during her stint as Chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Bohol.

Garma, who is at odds with the mayor, denied the allegation.

Reading from a letter allegedly sent to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Osmeña said Garma received a P1-million payoff from illegal gambling operation financiers.

Four other police officials were also mentioned in the letter.

In a report published by Cebu-based Sunstar, Garma denied the allegation, saying she was already serving in Cebu when the reports surfaced in November last year.

“I was already relieved [as CIDG 7 Director] and that’s not an issue for me. No big deal. I did not receive anything,” she said.

“How about him? Ask him about the drug allegation against him, that’s more plausible. Let him open his campaign funds,” she added.

Garma also said the accusations against her surfaced when reports that she would replace the general manager of PCSO came out. “They kept on maligning my reputation last year. My conscience is clean, I did not receive anything.”

The Comelec has already declared the entire Mindanao Island Group as a “Category Red Election Hotspot” in connection with the coming midterm polls.

“The Mindanao Island Group is joined by other Category Red hotspots—Jones, Isabela; Lope de Vega, Northern Samar; and the entire province of Abra.”

Nineteen cities and towns also have already been identified by the Philippine National Police as hotspots this coming election.

The 19 have been categorized as each having a tense political atmosphere arising from rivalries among aspirants and existing private armed groups and other threat groups.

On Monday, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde urged the public to remain vigilant against vote buying in their respective areas, a day after police arrested 10 supporters of Cavite gubernatorial candidate Jonvic Remulla for buying votes in Bacoor City.

Albayalde said the public has a duty to report to the authorities any form of vote buying.

“I think the community has a big role being the voters themselves. They have to report it to us. Evidence is needed just like what happened in Bacoor, Cavite,” Albayalde said.

The Commission on Elections on Monday said it would find a new partner for the random manual audit of the May 13 elections, after the National Movement for Free Elections declined accreditation.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez they are many watchdogs who want to join and the Comelec will look carefully at their qualifications and background.

“We had many partners during the 2016 elections who are still there and are ready to help. Only NAMFREL broke away,” Jimenez said.

The Comelec also clarified that it has yet to decide on NAMFREL’s request for accreditation for the Open Election Data project that would allow NAMFREL access to elections data during the May 13 elections.

“It is not correct to say that their accreditation was denied because there is no resolution yet from the commission en banc on that,” Comelec Education and Information Department director Frances Arabe said in a television interview.

NAMFREL pulled out as Comelec’s partner for the May elections after the Comelec supposedly denied its accreditation bid for the Open Election Data project and limiting its accreditation to performing the

random manual audit and the monitoring preparations for the elections.

“With their withdrawal, we take it to mean that the poll watchdog is no longer interested to partner with us, and that is why we are looking for interested parties to do the [random manual] audit,” Arabe said.

NAMFREL Secretary-General Eric Alvia said Namfrel’s lack of access to the digital trail of vote transmission would mean a less transparent counting of votes.

Topics: Panfilo Lacson , Commission on Elections , Philippine National Police , Tomas Osmeña
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