January 16, 2020 at 07:35 pm
Claiming he is a victim of a political war being waged by Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco against his political foes, a barangay chairman from the city has sought help from President Rodrigo Duterte in a last-minute attempt to avoid possible jail time arising from a non-bailable case filed against him.
Before a select group of media, Wilfredo Mariano, chairman of Barangay Tangos in Navotas, presented a letter he sent to Duterte, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, seeking assistance regarding a kidnapping case filed against him and two others by a supporter of Tiangco.
Neither the mayor nor the Navotas Public Information Office replied to queries from Manila Standard as of presstime.
According to Mariano, the case stemmed from an incident during the last elections.
Around early evening on May 13, 2019, Mariano said a group of men came to his office at the barangay hall in Tangos with someone in tow, whim the group claimed was engaging in vote-buying. However, after turning over the suspected vote-buyer to him, the group immediately left.
The suspected vote-buyer, who was then wearing a t-shirt bearing the name of then-mayoralty candidate Tiangco, was later identified as Rommel Sopera, a driver of Navotas City Hall. Sopera denied he was engaged in vote-buying and was simply delivering food to Tiangco’s poll watchers.
With no complaint against him, Mariano said Sopera then decided to file a complaint against those who brought him to the barangay hall, claiming he was brought there against his will, and that his cell phone and some of his money were taken by the group.
Mariano said he even assisted Sopera in filing his complaint and had two of his barangay tanods accompany him to get his motorcycle, which he left near the voting precinct.
However, after two months, Marinao said he received a subpoena stating he was being charged with kidnapping, illegal detention, robbery and violation of Omnibus Election Code, along with two others ― former congressional candidate Rico de Guzman, a lawyer of PDP-Laban who ran against Tiangco in 2013, and Rolando Morato, driver of the van, which brought Sopera to the barangay hall.
Early this month, Mariano said he received a resolution signed by city prosecutor Rennet Evangelista recommending the filing of kidnapping charges against him and Morato.
De Guzman was exonerated as it was never established he was even near the vicinity where the incident happened.
At that juncture, Mariano said he sought the help of Tiangco, who in turn asked him to give him the papers concerning the case.
After two days, Tiangco asked him to come to his office and told him to just provide the names of the group who brought Sopera to him (Mariano) and he would help him.
“Mabigat itong kaso mo. Mahirap ito. Ituro mo na lang yung dalawa pang kasama mo para maayos natin ‘to,” Tiangco told him, according to Mariano.
Saying he really doesn’t know them, Mariano said Tiangco then replied: “Itanong mo sa Pareng Gardy mo,” referring to former Navotas Vice Mayor, Lutgardo “Gardy” Cruz, whose son Raymond “RC” Cruz, ran as vice mayor against Tiangco’s partymate in the 2019 elections.
Saying he has not talked or even seen Cruz for a long time, Mariano said Tiangco again told him, “Ituro mo na yung dalawang kasama mo at bibigyan pa kita ng abogado para siya na ang gumawa ng affidavit mo at maayos na natin ang kaso mo.”
While not categorically saying Tiangco was trying to pressure him to implicate the Cruzes, Mariano said his case was clearly tainted with politics.
Not only was Tiangco insinuating the Cruzes was involved in the case but Tiangco won’t even touch on the merits of the case which would prove his innocence, according to Mariano.
“If the Cruzes and involved here, I have absolutely no idea. If this is about his political tiff with the Cruzes, it is not my concern. But please spare me and my family. This is no laughing matter,” he said.
“I am facing a non-bailable case and tomorrow (today, Friday), we heard that the case will be filed before the court. If the court upholds that, and from what we’ve heard, a judge is already waiting for this case, then I am facing arrest,” said Mariano in Filipino.
“Tao din lang po, marunong matakot. Natatakot ako para sa sarili ko, para sa aking pamilya. Nadadamay po ako sa laban sa pulitika ni Mayor Toby sa isang pamilya. Kung ngayon demanda para kasong non-bailable lng ang kinakaharap ko, ano pa kaya ang susunod?” he added.
“That is why I am calling on the President, the DILG and the DOJ to please investigate the incident. I have done nothing wrong except maybe to fail Mayor Toby Tiangco in his personal battle against his political foes,” Mariano said.