Lanao del Sur town mayor denies involvement in indiscriminate firing incident

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — Lanao del Sur, Malabang mayor Alinader Balindong on Wednesday denied involvement in the indiscriminate firing incident that took place during the filing of certificate of candidacy on August 31.

He appeared before the Commission on Elections law department Wednesday morning to explain his side.

“We came here in the office of the Comelec law department to answer the false accusations of my opponents in Malabang. And nagbigay ako ng statement sa law department para i-deny lahat ng accusation sa akin [I gave the statement to deny all the accusations against me],” he told reporters.

The local official also denied claims that the two suspects in the incident worked for him. Balindong said he only knows them because they are residents of the town.

“I have nothing to do with that. Bakit ako? Kilala ko. Pero bakit ko ipapahuli kung meron akong kaalaman? Siyempre sasabihin niya ako yung nag-utos sa kanya,” Balindong added.

[Translation: I am not involved in that. Why are they linking them to me just because I know them? Why will I order their arrests if I'm involved, then they will say I gave the instructions.]

The mayor’s lawyer Emil Marañon said the two individuals are "very, very distant relatives" of Balindong, who aided in the surrender of the suspects.

He added they discovered that the one who filed the complaint through email was a "non-existing person" that made "very generic" claims.

In a video shared by the Comelec, two men were seen shooting their firearms outside the municipal hall during the filing of certificates of candidacy (COC).

Marañon said the individuals who were prevented from filing their COC failed to follow the schedule set by local election officials. He explained, the Comelec set a schedule to avoid those involved in "rido" or clan wars from meeting.

“It’s because of rido and because certain personalities did not follow the rules of the Comelec na magfile kayo within your schedule. Because ang schedule na binigay sa Barangay nila is September 2 and then they filed two days ahead. So that is why nagkasalubong po yung pamilya na na-involve sa rido,” he said.

[Translation: Certain personalities did not follow Comelec's rule to file on your assigned schedule. Their barangay was slated for September 2 but they filed two days before so the two families involved in clan wars saw each other.]

They also raised concern on which entity has jurisdiction over the complaint, since the Lanao del Sur prosecutor’s office and provincial election supervisor are conducting their own investigations.

"I think the Commission on Elections, I think to the best of my knowledge has yet to issue an implementing rules kung saan ba dapat magfile [where it should be filed],” Marañon said.

Comelec Chairman George Garcia said they will find out the details and what spurred the violent incident.

When asked about the issue on jurisdiction, the poll body chief said they have the right to raise any issues. But he said the process is different since this is a show cause order.

“Iba pa po kapag formal na nating na-file-an ng kaso whether criminal or administrative base po sa Omnibus Election Code,” Garcia explained.

[Translation: It will be different once we file a case, whether it's criminal or administrative.]

The poll body chief earlier said he wants to place the Lanao del Sur town under Comelec control due to the election-related violence.

Marañon backed the call of Garcia, citing the occurrence of rido not only in Malabang, but the whole Bangsamoro region.

“I think it should be the right move on the part of the Comelec because again habang papalapitnang papalapit ang election mas iinit nang iinit yan [it will only get worse once we near the election day]. More precautions must be put in place,” he said.

Comelec is awaiting the law enforcement’s recommendation before making a decision.