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MANILA, Philippines - The intense rivalry between incumbent Taguig Mayor Laarni “Lani” Cayetano and challenger Rica Tinga turned violent Saturday, May 4, after Tinga's supporters were allegedly chased and hurt by security personnel from city hall’s Public Order and Safety Office (POSO).
Twelve people, including a council bet, actor Ervic Vijandre, were taken to St Luke’s Hospital at the Fort and the Rizal Medical Center after sustaining injuries inflicted by POSO men.
Councilor Michelle Gonzales, who is allied with the Tingas, said they were conducting a house-to-house campaign in Bgy Tuktukan when around 30 POSO men, most of them wearing bonnets, forcibly tried to disperse them by chasing them around.
The group at that time was passing through P. Cruz street at the left side of city hall around 9 am when the POSO men emerged and chased them.
“Many of the injured were taken to the hospital. We were holding a peaceful house to house campaign when these POSO men harassed us. They were throwing rocks at us,” Gonzales said. Gonzales was unhurt.
Not the full story?
A statement from Mayor Cayetano through lawyer Niño Pasco, however, said it was Tinga’s camp that instigated the violence.
According to him, Tinga and supporters tried to enter through the city hall’s back gate, after being “gently” told that they were not allowed to enter through the main entrance. The supporters started hurling stones, and the POSO men on duty only acted based on protocol to “prevent unnecessary commotion.”
Pasco added that Cayetano did not direct the POSO during the commotion. Cayetano only knew of the violence after the fact, and she was at that time busy campaigning in District 2.
“For several weeks already, they have been instigating violence in Taguig, because they want Taguig to be a Comelec hot spot for it to be in full Comelec control,” he said in a phone interview.
Pasco said Cayetano condemns the violence and thinks it is a desperate attempt on Tinga’s part.
The Cayetano camp raises the issue due to ties between Commission on Elections (Comelec) head Sixto Brillantes and the Tingas. Putting Taguig under Comelec control is essentially putting Brillantes in control. Brillantes was the family's election lawyer for decades.
Tinga's camp provided Rappler with a video of what happened:
In a separate statement, Tinga’s camp condemned the violent dispersal of their supporters.
“The group’s photographer, Jerry Goc-ong, 40, was chased and beaten by the suspects who were armed with metal guardsticks. The POSO men snatched his Canon digital camera. He remains in serious condition at the St Luke’s Hospital at the Fort due to body and head injuries which required him to undergo CT scan," the statement said.
Vijandre, 27, a Kilusang Diwa ng Taguig council bet for the city’s first district, sustained a deep cut on the head requiring 4 stitches. Another Tinga supporter, Crispina Hernandez, suffered a broken nose when a rock hit her face.
Other victims who sustained body injuries were listed as follows: Guiama T. Batua, 27; Raymond D. Quimpo, 28; Christopher L. Gonzales, 37; Alexander Cary L. Gonzales, 39; Jose L. Garcia Jr, 42. Also hurt were minors John Erick R. Asuncion, 18; Vanessa A. Santos, 18; Kawner I. Alojado, 18; Sweet Lea Marie S. Manalili, 17. They were distributing leaflets when the commotion erupted.
Tinga appealed to Cayetano’s camp to restrain their supporters. “My own supporters are peacefully conducting a campaign. They entered the compound of city hall just to press hands with the people. They should not resort to violence,” Tinga said.
Sr. Supt. Arthur Felix Asis, Taguig police chief, confirmed that the commotion at Taguig city hall transpired at 9:30 am.
Asis said that during the house-to-house campaign of KDT Party (Tinga's group), about 40 supporters led by Rica Tinga herself, suddenly entered the City Hall compound and tried to force their way inside the City Hall building but failed when security personnel shut the door.
Tinga's group immediately left the premises, but again tried to enter the back gate. It was then that they were stopped by security personnel.
Asis said a commotion ensued as one of the POSO security personnel was stoned and injured by one of the group members who was able to elude arrest. "We will prepare charges against the group," Asis said.
Cayetano, wife of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, beat former Justice Dante Tinga in the 2010 elections, breaking the Tinga’s political control over Taguig. Rica's brother, Freddie Tinga, was mayor for 3 terms from 2001-2010.
Less than a month ago, Tinga also accused Cayetano of using goons to beat up party mate Ricardo Gomez who is running as councilor under her slate. – with reports from Buena Bernal and Natashya Gutierrez/Rappler.com
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