Comelec blamed for heated feud

‘His political foes, in their desire to counter the popularity of my father, came up with a namesake whom nobody knew from the town of Alcala, Cagayan.’

Enough is enough!

The Commission on Elections should perform its role of cleaning up the polls, the government’s top lawyer said yesterday.

Had the Comelec acted resolutely and not allowed a nuisance candidate to run for governor of Negros Oriental in the first place, the heated political situation in the province might have been avoided, Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile said yesterday in his weekly program Bayan ni Juan.

The nuisance candidate named Grego Degamo, who used the first name “Ruel,” split the votes for legitimate candidate Roel Degamo, which resulted in Pryde Henry Teves winning the election.

However, the Supreme Court last 14 February affirmed Comelec’s ruling on “Ruel” Degamo being a nuisance candidate, annulled Teves’s proclamation as governor, and declared Roel Degamo the winner of the gubernatorial race after a vote recount to his favor.

At the time the Negros Oriental gubernatorial bets were announced, the Comelec was short of one commissioner. Thus, the decision on the petition against the nuisance candidate was made only after the election results were in and the Comelec was able to complete its roster.

“The key here is the Comelec should not have allowed an obvious nuisance candidate in the lineup,” Enrile said.

He then recalled a similar situation involving his father.

“My father (Cagayan political kingpin Alfonso Ponce Enrile) was also a victim of such a maneuver,” he said.

He added: “His political foes in their desire to counter the popularity of my father, came up with a namesake whom nobody knew from the town of Alcala, Cagayan. My father’s name was Alfonso Ponce and he was the son of Damaso Ponce of Baliwag, Bulacan.”

“He went to live in Cagayan after he finished his law studies at Ohio State University. Alfonso Ponce started as a Clerk of Court and then became a lawyer before running for Congress.”

Enrile said Alfonso retired in Cagayan after finishing his five-year term.

“In his reelection bid, his political nemesis, the Formosos, fielded a candidate whose name was also Alfonso Ponce. As a result of the stunt, my father lost by 50,000 votes,” Enrile recalled.

Following the killing of Governor Degamo and the vow of Comelec chairman George Garcia that such an election ploy will never happen again, Enrile responded: “Too late, my friend, too late.”

“You should have thought about it beforehand,” he added. “That is why you’re there, to clean up the electoral process.”

Marcos calls out the troops

On Thursday, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. ordered the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “suppress all forms of criminality and impunity” on Negros Island.

In a briefing at DND headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the President issued the order as he directed him to render justice to the families of the victims in the killing of Gov. Roel Degamo and eight others.

The DND announced the creation of a joint task force, composed of two Army brigades, to assist the Philippine National Police in the probe into Degamo’s murder, as well as “to restore normalcy and the confidence of the people” in Negros Oriental.

“We need to secure the families of the victims and the witnesses. We need to arrest all the suspects,” Marcos said in an interview.

Galvez urged the remaining suspects who are in hiding to surrender to the government forces.

“You can run but we will really go after you,” he said.

The authorities are preparing criminal charges against the arrested suspects, he added.

End criminality in Negros

“The President wants to really eliminate all criminality in the entire Negros region that has existed for a long time,” Galvez said.

AFP Chief of Staff Andres Centino said the joint task force will be composed of eight AFP units currently based in the Negros area to be augmented by troops from outside the region.

“We have already deployed an elite unit from Cotabato and they are now in Negros to augment our unit there,” he said.

The joint task force will be headed by the commander of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, Brig. Gen. Marion Sison.

Centino said Sison will be assisted by two brigade commanders, Brig. Gen. Leo Pena and Col. Orlando Edralin, who have operational control of six military battalions currently deployed in the Negros region.

Half of the six battalions will operate in the northern part of the region while the remaining three will augment the troops in the southern part, he added.

Centino said the PNP has deployed policemen in identified areas in the hunt for the other suspects.

“We have sufficient forces deployed there and the addition of one company from Cotabato will significantly augment our forces there,” he added.

Galvez said the arrested suspects had identified the mastermind of the attack on Degamo at his residence in Pamplona town.

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