ARMED men yesterday burned two vote counting machines (VCMs) and other election paraphernalia in Jones, Isabela.
The VCMs and poll paraphernalia were about to be transported to the municipal hall from the polling precints of Bgy. Dacanay when snatched by the suspects in Bgy. Sta. Isabel at 6:20 a.m. yesterday.
The suspects seized the VCMs from teachers who served as board of election inspectors (BEIs). The machines were loaded with 200 uncounted ballots.
Board of election inspector Arlyn Borromeo Santos said they were about to bring the VCMs to the town hall when the suspects blocked their path and took the VCMs and the election paraphernalia before burning them.
The armed men fled after the torching.
Police tagged two suspected members of a partisan armed group as the armed men who burned the VCMs and some 200 unread ballots.
Police Regional Office 2 director Brig. Gen. Jose Mario Espino identified the two suspects as Jayson Leano and Rodel Pascual, both suspected members of a local PAG whose leader, Wilson Betita, was arrested in Bgy. Sta. Isabel in Jones last May 2.
Espino ordered the Isabela Police Provincial Office director to track down the arsonists at all cost.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said they were at a loss why the election inspectors decided to transport the VCMs and the election paraphernalia without being escorted by Marine soldiers who were supposed to be guarding them.
“We will make the necessary report to the Armed Forces’ leadership and it’s up to them to make the decision on this matter. Our initial investigation showed that the BEIs were allowed to transport the VCMs by themselves. Accordingly, nagpilit ‘yung mga teacher pero wala naman sa usapan ‘yun. They have to be escorted at all times,” the PNP chief said.
With Alfred Dalizon