By Pangasinan Muna
A congressional candidate of the Liberal Party in Pangasinan has asked the Commision on Elections to disqualify re-electionist Gov. Amado Espino, Jr. and Rep. Jesus “Boying” Celeste for allegedly detaining his supporters and preventing them from distributing his campaign materials.
Atty. Bodie Pulido, who is running for congressman in the First District of Pangasinan, said in his complaint that Governor Espino and Representative Celeste used force and intimidation to harass his supporters during an incident that took place last April 2.
Pulido recalled that his supporters Melvin Ancheta and Aljon Laderas were distributing leaflets and other campaign materials at Barangay Napunit in Infanta when several unidentified men on board a tricycle approached them and forcibly confiscated their belongings, including the Liberal Party’s campaign paraphernalia.
The unidentified men reportedly forced Ancheta and Laderas to ride the tricycle and accompany them. Ancheta and Laderas were then brought and detained at the Municipal Hall of Infanta upon the orders of Gov. Espino and Rep. Celeste. At the municipal hall, Gov. Espino and Rep. Celeste confronted the two campaign workers and repeatedly asked them to divulge who ordered them to distribute the campaign materials and on who paid them.
When Ancheta and Laderas did not respond to their inquiry, Rep. Celeste said “Dapat sa inyo, binibigyan ng leksyon!” Gov. Espino and Rep. Celeste then ordered their men to take photographs of Ancheta and Laderas.
When a team of responding policemen arrived at the scene, Gov. Espino and Rep. Celeste ordered the lawmen to arrest Ancheta and Laderas. The duo were briefly detained at the police headquarters before they were released hours later. Aggrieved by the illegal, inhumane and criminal acts committed by Gov. Espino and Rep. Celeste against them, Ancheta and Laderas sought Pulido’s legal advice on how to file a complaint for Unlawful Arrest/Slight Illegal Detention against the two officials.
Pulido explained that Section1, Rule 25 of the Rules of the Comelec provides that: “Any candidate who does possess all the qualifications of a candidate as provided for by the Constitution or by existing law or who commits any act declared by law to be grounds for disqualification may be disqualified from continuing as a candidate.”
“Based on the statements of Ancheta and Ladera, it is clear that Gov. Espino and Rep. Celeste violated pertinent provisions of the Omnibus Election Code which may cause their disqualification,” Pulido said. He cited Section 83 of the Omnibus Election Code which provides: “It shall be unlawful for any person during the campaign period to remove, destroy, obliterate, or in any manner deface or tamper with, or prevent the distribution of lawful election propaganda.” “Thus, for forcibly confiscating the leaflets, posters, and other election paraphernalia from Ancheta and Delloza, and for intimidating, threatening and detaining the latter, it is clear that Espino and Celeste prevented the distribution of lawful election propaganda, in violation of Section 83 of the Omnibus Election Code,” Pulido pointed out.
Aside from the disqualification suits, Gov. Espino and Rep. Celeste are also facing murder charges at the Department of Justice (DOJ) for allegedly masterminding the killing of Infanta Mayor Ruperto Martinez last December 15.
A teenaged witness told the National Bureau of Investigation that Gov. Espino and Rep. Celeste ordered the killing of Martinez after the mayor learned that the pier in his town was being used to smuggle minerals out of Pangasinan.