By Mortz C. Ortigoza
STA. BARBARA - The vaunted power of the 3000-member Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) here did not spoil the reelection bid of Mayor Carlito Zaplan after the religious group supported his rival former Mayor Rey Velasco .
Zaplan led Velasco by more than 1,200 votes in the May 13 poll this year.
This town has more than 44,000 voters.
He said two days before the election Velasco, the official bet of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, told the people here that he chalked up the endorsement of INC.
A source who asked not to be named, said Zaplan, just like what happened in the 2010 poll, won the endorsement of the block voting religious denomination a week before May 13 but Velasco through the intercession of a top NPC boss got the endorsement of the INC in Manila and reversed the denomination’s support here.
“Sabi niya tapos na ang laban dito sa Sta. Barbara dahil nakuha na niya ang Iglesia ni Cristo. Huwag niyang sabihin iyan dahil hindi pa naman tapos ang laban, hindi pa tapos ang bilangan!,” Zaplan recalled what he told his supporters two days before the poll.
In the 2010 election Zaplan trounced out Velasco with a hairline lead of 244 votes.
The mayor deplored that the hierarchy of the INC supported his rival.
“Three million pesos ang ginastos ko diyan na pa-ilaw sa kalsada malapit sa magandang simbahan ng Iglesia ni Cristo diyan sa national highway, “ Zaplan, a big time contractor, said.
The mayor assailed Velasco who for the first time brought two armored personnel carriers (APC) and army personnel who roamed the town as if there was war here before the poll.
“One thing he lost the election was he impressed to the people that Sta. Barbara was a war zone. People in this town do not like that.”
A source said a fuming Velasco, a former two-star police general, called a top police official in the region by asking for the Army and the APCs after he learned that a party member gave millions of pesos as campaign funds to support Zaplan.
“Ayaw ng tao na ito na manalo daw si Velasco sa Sta.Barbara,’ the source quipped.
The campaign for the mayoral derby here was acrimonious and ugly where Velasco accused Zaplan of massive vote buying, “ambush me (after two dump trucks of Zaplan were peppered by bullets)”, and “Kill the General. “
“Binaliktad niya ang situation. Hindi dapat ganoon. Iyong sinasabi niya bakit ko papatayin si General Velasco hindi naman ako ganoon. Siya nga ang dami-dami niyang bodyguards. Lumalakad akong mag-isa. Sinungaling siya. Iyong gawain niya binabato niya sa akin, “ Zaplan recalled what he said in that campaign.