Cogon Ramos SK officials, members cleared of vote-buying raps
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The two Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officials from Barangay Cogon Ramos in Cebu City and two of their youth volunteers have been cleared from allegations of vote-buying on the evening of May 11, two days before the elections.
The Office of the City Prosecutor ruled that due to the lack of probable cause, the cases of violation of the Election Omnibus Code against SK Chairman John Paul Mahinay, Treasurer Theodoric Pepito, volunteers Anjo Pepito and Kyle Baricuatro, be dismissed.
The ruling was released on May 15, four days after the SK members were arrested in the Barangay Gym of Cogon Ramos and detained at the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) headquarters.
“Respondents sufficiently negates the allegation of complaintants-arresting officers that the money found in the possession of respondent Mahinay was intended to buy votes, nor the money found in the possession of respondent Anjo, Theodoric and Baricuatro were proceeds from vote selling,” ruled City Prosecutor Maria Theresa Calibugan-Casiño.
Casiño said in the ruling that most perpetrators of illegal trade would do so under hidden places but since the distribution of the money was done in the gym, a public and well lighted place, during a public event, a Summer Basketball League, this lowers the probability of illegal activities, such as vote buying, being done.
The prosecutor asked the arresting officers to immediately release the detained SK members following the dismissal of the case.
SK Cebu City Federation President, Jessica Resch, told CDN Digital, that they were elated with the dismissal of the cases against the four SK officials and members.
Resch said that she was disappointed by the police for putting malice on a youth activity such as a Summer Basketball League, which was supposed to be a fun experience for the youths.
Instead, the activity traumatized four youths in Barangay Cogon Ramos who were forced to sleep inside a detention cell for four days, only to be found innocent of the allegations.
“Luoy kaayo sila nga naa sila gipriso sa Camp Sotero bisag inosente sila. (Their situation was pitiful that they were detained in Camp Sotero even if they were innocent),” said Resch.
Resch said that they were currently focused on processing the release of the four SK officials and volunteers so they could go home safely back to their families.
However, she said the federation was also considering filing charges against the arresting officers for their “illegal” arrest of the SK officials and volunteers and for maligning the SK officials through an ungrounded allegation.
Resch said that she hoped that since the election had been over, the youth would no longer suffer such harassment from an agency that was supposed to protect the constituents of the city./dbs
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