(STAR) By Ding Cervantes - Liberal Party (LP) re-electionist Gov. Eddie Panlilio urged yesterday the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate reports that his gubernatorial rival has been paying advance salaries ranging from P1,500 to P4,000 monthly to people who will act as poll watchers in the second district of Pampanga, where President Arroyo is the official congressional candidate of Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

“I urge the Comelec in Pampanga and Central Luzon to check out reports that my fellow gubernatorial candidate , Mrs. Lilia Pineda, and her campaigners at the Lakas-Kampi-CMD are doing a massive recruitment of poll watchers beyond what is allowed by election laws,” the Pampanga governor said in a statement yesterday.

Panlilio said that a “first batch of poll watchers have been designated as barangay coordinators” and have been required by the Pineda camp to recruit 10 poll watchers each.

“Election laws allow two poll watchers per party in every clustered precinct to work on alternate duty. When the precinct is small, the BEI can ask the poll watchers to leave. Only a representative of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting will be allowed,” he noted.

Panlilio cited reports that barangay coordinators are already being paid P4,000 monthly while the recruited poll watchers were promised P1,500 per month.

“They are being given identification cards so they can regularly collect their allowance. This could be a form of vote buying. I pray that the Comelec check into this to be able to protect the sanctity of the election,” he said.

Mrs. Pineda and her campaign manager Rosve Henson did not respond to phone calls and text messages.

Mrs. Pineda, wife of Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda who was tagged as a big-time gambling lord during the Senate impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada, is a close friend of Mrs. Arroyo.

A cabal in Pampanga

More family members of the President and Mrs. Pineda are running in the May 10 elections.

President Arroyo’s rival in the second district, LP congressional candidate Adonis Simpao, noted that Mrs. Pineda’s son, outgoing Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda, is the congressional nominee of the Ang Galing Pinoy party-list, together with presidential son Rep. Mikey Arroyo and outgoing Bacolor Mayor Buddy Dungca.

Simpao added that Mrs. Pineda’s youngest daughter, Mylene, is also running unopposed as administration candidate for mayor in Lubao where the President is a registered voter.

In Sta. Rita town, Dennis’ wife Yolanda is seeking re-election, also under the administration party. Only independent candidate Arthur Salalila, a former mayor and Sangguniang Panlalawigan member, is challenging her.  

Lubao and Sta. Rita are within the second district where the President is running for Congress.

Simpao likened the looming Pineda dynasty in Pampanga to the buildup of the Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao.

The rise of the Pinedas’ political stock, according to him, was based on political patronage.

He added that the President’s support for the Pinedas was also reflected in the electoral case Mrs. Pineda filed against Panlilio.

Only recently, the Comelec’s Second Division ordered the ouster of Panlilio in favor of Mrs. Pineda after a recount of votes cast for governor in 2007 purportedly revealed the latter as the real winner.

The poll body has yet to decide on the petition for reconsideration filed by Panlilio, on top of another petition filed by Pineda to immediately assume the gubernatorial post.

Simpao said the buildup of the Pineda political dynasty could be part of a scenario to strengthen Mrs. Arroyo’s political base once she becomes House Speaker or even prime minister.

“There have been a lot of declarations and denials in the past years which have been later contradicted, such as the President’s announcement not to run in 2004 elections, then the denial by Malacañang that her frequent visits to the second district was politically motivated. It turns out she had wanted all along to run for Congress in the district,” he said.

Simpao also noted that despite similar denials by Mrs. Arroyo’s camp that her congressional bid had nothing to do with reports she is interested in being House Speaker or prime minister under a parliamentary form of government, her allies are now hinting otherwise.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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