ORMOC CITY – The Ormoc City Police Office has recently recommended the granting of “protective security” for Richard Gomez, who is running for mayor of this city, considering that he is a high profile person and the city is Category 2 in the Election Watchlist Areas (EWAS).
EWAS Category 2 areas are those noted to have the presence of “private armed groups and the New People’s Army (NPA) in the past polls”.
In a threat assessment submitted by police city director Elizar Egloso to the police regional director, he said that they have reason to believe that Richard Gomez “may be in danger and under threat” and that “granting him the protective security is necessary”. Egloso is recommending that Gomez gets a security detail.
Gomez, who is also Leyte 4th district Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez’s chief of staff, has recently been going around city barangays, including remote areas, to meet with village leaders and consult barrio folk.
Meanwhile, police is also eyeing a “brewing” situation at Brgy. Bantigue, a coastal barangay in Isabel town, also in the 4th district of Leyte. Isabel is the country’s first industrial town and home to PASAR and PhilPhos.
Last week, more than a hundred residents picketed the municipal mayor asking their town mayor and officials to protect them from an alleged “private army” that has put up a so-called “guard house” at a quarry site of Philphos. The villagers alleged that the “guard house” is a mere ruse to house the private army, because until two weeks ago, there was no need for Philphos to put armed people to guard the quarry area they’ve been operating for years.
The village, while hard to reach through land, is easily accesible by sea to and from the Philphos wharf. A PEZA facility, even the police cannot readily enter the wharf without permission from management.
The town mayor, Saturnino Medina Jr., who is seeking third term and an ally of Rep. Gomez, is not seeing eye-to-eye with previous friends at Philphos who are now openly supporting his rival, eighth councilor Marcus Greg Cerillo.
A reliable source reached by the EV Mail to confirm the situation at Bantigue said the villagers’ sentiments are real. He said the armed men, often seen wearing T-shirts with “RAM” markings when they arrived in the area around two weeks ago, would circle the village several times on their motorcycles, striking fear in the hearts of residents who’ve been used to the peace and quiet of the sleepy coastal area.
The police has since deployed a squad to secure the village. Ch. Insp. Ramil Ramirez of the Regional Mobile Group said that a composite team has been detailed to the area to prevent any untoward incident from happening, following the reports of alleged terrorism.
For the part of RAM, Rey Enales, regional coordinator of the Rebulosyonaryong Alyansa Makabayan, said this is the first time he heard of their group allegedly being used to terrorize people in Isabel.
He promised to probe the incident, adding it was against their policies to use the group as “political goons” even if he also admitted they are allowed to “campaign, organize and secure the votes” of a certain candidate. They respect the autonomy of each chapter and in places where members are unanimous whom to support, then they are free to do so as a group.
In Isabel, he said, the RAM there supports the candidacy of Cerillo as he is a RAM member. It was also learned that their chapter head is Paterno “Toto” Hermoso, the village chairman of Sto. Niño who was suspended by the town council after members of his barangay council filed an administrative complaint against him for buying a vehicle that his father owned, passing it off as a brand new ambulance.
To show how autonomous the organization was, Enales said that in Kananga, it is Matt Torres’s candidacy that their group there is supporting. RAM is allied with the Liberal Party, it was further learned.
Enales added that he is also disturbed with the information that their chapter head has been suspended for alleged graft, saying their group was pro-good governance. “Such people has no room in the organization and there is disciplinary action to be taken against him”, if in their investigation, the allegations are proven true. He added RAM has a spotless record of being pro-democracy and for good governance in the 30 years of its existence.
The suspended barangay chairman has questioned his suspension in Court, asking regional trial court executive judge Clinton C. Nuevo for a temporary restraining order and injunction. In a recent order handed down by the court, Hermoso’s appeal for a TRO was dismissed by Nuevo, saying it was already “moot and academic”.
By the time Hermoso asked for a TRO, he was already serving his suspension.