LP: Comelec exec made One Cebu victory sign

Posted on October 11, 2012

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Provincial Comelec supervisor Lionel Castillano (left) teases the young son of Cong. Pablo John Garcia, Pablo Andres to show a One Cebu hand sign after Garcia filed his COC under the One Cebu party. He was accompanied by wife Karen and daughter Gabriela.(CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

 

by Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter

 

For reportedly trying to comfort a child, a ranking Commission on Elections (Comelec) official finds himself in the hot seat.

The Liberal Party (LP)-Cebu chapter raised a howl over a hand gesture made by Comelec provincial officer Marco Lionel Castillano that appeared to be a One Cebu hand sign in a photo op with Rep. Pablo Garcia of Cebu’s 3rd district last week.

The congressman is One Cebu’s standard bearer who will run against Cebu LP’s gubernatorial bet Hilario Davide III.

The photo pose was taken after Rep. Garcia filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for governor.

Based on a photograph published on page 35 of Cebu Daily News last Oct. 7, Castillano was shown raising his pointer finger while he was with Rep. Garcia and his  family.

Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale voiced concern as she showed the CDN photo to reporters gathered in her office at the Legislative Building inside the Capitol compound.

“We’re worried. If I were in his place, I won’t do that,” said Magpale, LP’s vice gubernatorial candidate.

Improper

Magpale said they’ll have to inform Comelec commissioner Sixto Brillantes regarding the issue.

“We should let Brilliantes know what is going on,” she said.

The letter addressed to Brillantes was finalized yesterday and will be sent to Comelec in Manila anytime, Magpale said.

“All I’m saying is its improper to do that pose,” she said. But Magpale told Cebu Daily News they have “other issues” against Castillano.

“There are other issues here. If he can come to my office, maybe we can discuss it,” Magpale said. Davide said  he was dismayed with what Castillano did.

“He (Castillano) is supposed to be the top election officer in the province. That smacks of political partiality. He is supposed to be neutral. To be impartial is what we least expect of him,” he said.

Davide said they have to do something regarding the issue.

“The picture speaks a thousand words. We intend to really act on it. Of course it will affect the Comelec. This will expose the Comelec to accusations of bias later on,” he said.

Misinterpreted

In a phone interview, Castillano said he’s willing to answer all the accusations.

“My conscience is clear. There was no malice when I made that hand gesture. It was just misinterpreted,” he said.

Castillano, who was in Manila yesterday, said he was just trying to entertain Garcia’s son who cried when One Cebu candidates filed their COC at the provincial Comelec last Friday.

“PJ’s child was crying. I was just trying to demonstrate something to the child. It’s not that I’m endorsing One Cebu. There was no malice when I made that hand gesture,” he said.

Castillano said there were several cameras around him and he won’t do anything that would cast doubt on his credibility.

“My fault was I wasn’t vigilant with my actions. Next time, I will be more careful,” said Castillano.

Cebu Daily News photo editor Tonee Despojo, who took the photo of Castillano and Garcia, confirmed that Castillano was trying to comfort Garcia’s child during the photo op.

“The child was sleepy when he was brought by his mother for the photo op. The child rubbed his eyes and appeared to be crying so Castillano wagged his finger to try and entertain the congressman’s son. There were also One Cebu followers chanting “One Cebu, One Cebu” when the photo op was taken. It looked like Castillano was caught off guard,” he said.

Transfer

Last Monday, Castillano said he talked with Brillantes on the reshuffling of election supervisors in the country.

“Even before I learned about this issue (One Cebu hand gesture), I told chairman Brillantes that I’m willing to be transferred if it will help the Comelec,” he said.

Castillano, who served as Cebu provincial election supervisor since 2007, said he requested Brillantes to transfer him to another place within Central Visayas, particularly in Siquijor.

“Cebu is a very big place. I also want to relax. All election supervisors have the same salaries. Why would I suffer in Cebu which has a large population? I’m not getting any younger. I offered to be transferred if only to help the commission,” the 41-year-old Castillano said.

He said he is willing to approach Magpale to explain his side of the story.

Magpale said she welcomes Castillano anytime in her office.

“I won’t just request him to appear before me. Who am I to call him to appear in my office? I’m careful with this. He, on his own volition, can come to my office,” she said.

Delicadeza

She said Castillano’s actuations has something to do with “delicadeza.”

Magpale said she chose to refer the issue to their legal counsel.

When asked about Castillano’s explanation on the hand gesture, Magpale said “we have footage. I won’t comment.”

She also reiterated they also have other problems with Castillano but declined to elaborate.

One Cebu gubernatorial candidate and 3rd Dist Rep. Pablo John Garcia is interviewed for his reaction on the Liberal Party’s plan to file a complaint against Cebu provincial election officer Lionel Castillano who flashed a One Cebu hand sign while teasing the son of Garcia during the filing of his COC last October 5. In jest he warned the media not to flash the One Cebu hand sign when you order one more beer. (JUNJIE MENDOZA)

For his part, Rep. Garcia chided Magpale and Davide for trying to blow up the incident out of proportion.

“Is there no other issue? Why would they nitpick on this (Castillano’s hand gesture)?,”  he said.

He told reporters to look at the photo. “If you see the photo, my child was crying and Castillano was trying to comfort him. You were there, I was with my family….I don’t see anything that indicated he was One Cebu,” he added.

Pablo John also questioned whether making the number one sign could be interpreted as endorsing One Cebu.

“I only advise Comelec to watch out when they use their fingers,” he said.

Pablo John said there are more substantive issues to discuss and the LP’s complaint is laughable.

“The people would say is this the kind of leader that we should elect? That they would look for issues so they can appear in newspapers?,” he added.

He also said that this could be a “sign of panic” on the Cebu LP’s part.  “Maybe they’re panicking… If they’re panicking, they go everywhere,” he said./ With Correspondent Carmel Loise Matus

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