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UNDER THREAT?

Lapu-Lapu mayor wants police escorts for wife, others

First Posted 06:49:00 12/24/2009

Two men, one of them armed, were at his Christmas party ? they were not on the guest list.

Following their arrest, Lapu-Lapu Mayor Arturo Radaza said he is seeking police security for his wife and other candidates in his slate.

Radaza, who is running for congressman in the city's lone district, described the incident as a wakeup call.

Before this happened, he said, he would just ignore threats.

The arrested suspects turned out to be shoe vendors, who denied that they were out to harm Paz, who is running for mayor in Lapu-Lapu, or anyone else.

Valeriano Bacalso and Alfie Gabato said they just crashed the party last Tuesday to enjoy free food and collect giveaways. Bacalso said he kept a gun for self defense.

Both men showed up at the party drunk and calling attention with their rude behaviour.

Senior Supt. Mariano Natu-el, Lapu-Lapu City police director, said he would have their background checked.

Asked by CEBU DAILY NEWS how serious was the threat on a scale of 1 to 10, Natu-el rated it a ?1?, the lowest score.

But since the suspects were arrested in a party he hosted, the Lapu-Lapu city mayor said he would request police security from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), for his wife, Paz, and the entire slate Diretso Tres.

Both suspects are ambulant shoe repair men in their 30s.

Bacalso, a native of Toledo City, carried an expired ID card showing him to be e a former police asset in Cebu City. His card was isssued as a member of the Barangay Intelligence Network in the North Reclamation Area chapter under the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).

Gabato is from Olango Island, Cordova town.

The police filed a complaint for illegal possession of firearm against Bacalso and charged Gabato with malicious mischief.

Both men showed up at the Christmas party hosted by Radaza at the Lapu-Lapu Sports Complex about 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. They caused a stir when they barged into the party, drunk and asking for food, said Harry Radaza, in a separate press conference.

The mayor's supporters kept a close eye on the two strangers, said Harry, campaign manager and a candidate for councilor.

Bacalso was eating rice and a piece of humba (pork stew) that fell off his plate. As he tried to pick up the meat from the ground, Bacalso's other hand was reaching for something in his belt bag, according to Harry.

Marshals pounced on Bacalso and found a .22 caliber pistol in his bag.

Harry said that before this incident, he received text messages warning of an assassination plot against Radaza, the mayor's wife and other candidates in their slate.

He also said two men on a motorcycle were noticed tailing his car last week.

?There mere fact that the there was a weapon proves it was a serious threat. They have all the reasons to go after me as the campaign manager and the one in charge of our group?s barangay connections,? Harry said.

Mayor Radaza said he suspects political rivals may be behind the incident but added that he will wait for the result of the police investigation.

?Murag wake up call ni namo kay sauna amo raman ibaliwala ang mga threats kay nisalig man mi sa mga tao (This serves as a wake up call for us because before, we would just brush aside the threats since we trusted the people),? Radaza told a news conference yesterday.

Asked if he had a suspect in mind, Radaza replied: ?Bahala na ang police kung unsa kay trabaho man na sa police. ...pero kaning BIN kang (DILG Undersecretary) Lito (Ruiz) man ni. Kinsa pa man diay laing nagsugo ana? Naa man sa iyang ID nga BIN man siya (It is up to the police to determine this because that is their job. But this BIN ? isn't this with Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Lito Ruiz. Who else would order them to do that? The suspect had an ID that he belonged to the BIN),? he said.

Undersecretary Lito Ruiz could not be reached for comment as of press time. His wife?s spokesman, lawyer Gonzalo Malig-on said he could not speak on behalf of the undersecretary.

Bacalso admitted he was drunk and had a gun, but said the weapon was for self defense.

?Nisulod lang mi sa party kay party lagi basin maapilan mi ug hatag (We went to the party hoping that we would also receive something),? said Bacalso.

He said he was in Lapu-Lapu to look for customers who may want their shoes fixed.

Gabato, a resident of Olango Island, said he only knew Bacalso on the day they were mauled and arrested. He said he went to the sports complex and joined the party because he saw his neighbors there.

He said he wanted to hitch a ride back to Olango.

Both Bacalso and Gabato suffered bruises on their faces after they were mauled by several people inside the sports complex following their arrest. They said they could not identify those who beat them up.

Police investigators were sent to Toledo City to check on Bacalso?s background.

Natu-el of the Lapu-Lapu police said he has not yet received an official request from the mayor for extra security.

Any request has to be evaluated by the police intelligence section to find out if the threat was ?serious? enough to merit additional escorts.

Mayor Radaza said he would continue with his barangay sorties and ?pulong-pulong? (community dialogues).

?Ang Ginoo nalang among saligan ana. Gaba ra ang ilaha (We will rely on God. Our opponents will get their comeuppance),? Radaza said.

He recalled that in 2006, he was given additional security after he received a death threat sent through a text message.

When he was suspended for six months over the graft inquiry into decorative lampposts installed for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit, Radaza said he requested the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas to retain his security detail because of threats. The Police Regional Office 7 granted his request.


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