By NITZ ARANCON
COMMISSION on Elections regional director Reynato Magbutay yesterday ordered the elections officer of Gitagum, Misamis Oriental, replaced following the latter’s arrest during an undercover operation of narcotics agents in Iponan, this city, on Wednesday.
Ordered replaced was elections officer Jose Mari Fernandez who is facing a drug case in court. He was charged with drug pushing and illegal possession of drugs before the local prosecutor’s office yesterday, according to Red Bajao, spokesperson of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the region .
Fernandez has been placed under detention after agents of the PDEA allegedly caught him with five sachets of suspected shabu at his Bloomingdale subdivision house in Iponan. The sachets came in various sizes and were estimated by PDEA to have a street value of P100 thousand.
Magbutay said he was disturbed over reports that Fernandez told PDEA investigators that there were other Comelec people with drug links, but said he would not jump to conclusions.
Magbutay said he and other Comelec officials would need to see proof first.
“Kinahanglan pa nga i-validate kana. Dili ta moderitso lang dayon ug to-o anang iyang gi-estorya. Ma-o nang nagkinahanglan gyud ko adtong official complete report sa PDEA,” said Magbutay even as he called for a thorough validation work by investigators on Fernandez’s allegations. “Basin nag-ngalan lang siya (Fernandez) og mga tawo nga gusto lang niyang i-apil, unya tomo-tomo ra diay. So, kuyaw,” he said.
Magbutay directed Comelec provincial director Carlito Ravelo to coordinate with the PDEA and ask a copy of its official report on Fernandez’s arrest.
He said the Comelec would deal with Fernandez based on the PDEA report.
“Tan-awon sa nato ang report sa PDEA but definitely, we will take action,” he said.
Magbutay said Fernandez would likely be slapped with an administrative case, and he could lose his job at the Comelec.
The Comelec central office in Manila has been informed of Fernandez’s arrest. He said he was waiting for instructions.
“I am so sad kay karon pa gyud kini nahitabo sa Comelec-Region 10 nga na-ay atong elections officer nga nadakpan,” Magbutay said.
He said the Comelec regional office was still at a loss because it has never been in a situation like this.
“Mao na nga we are getting instructions from Comelec-Manila kay karon pa man nato na experience sa entire Region 10,” he said.
Magbutay said Ravelo was also given instructions by him to designate a new municipal elections officer for Gitagum town.