By SHERWIN DE VERA
with reports from ACE ALEGRE
BAGUIO CITY — Like last year’s May barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, Abra province may again end up among the country’s election “hot spots” as another election related violence erupts in Lagayan town.
One camp, the incumbent mayor Jendricks Luna, who is running for reelection and the other, challenger Edmarc Crisologo are now accusing each other of ambush after a firefight occurred between their supporters at about 7:30 a.m. on January 3 in the remote barangay of Collago.
Responding police found two pick-ups, a red Ford Ranger without plate number and a white Nissan Navarra with plate number POQ 615, about 800 meters apart and both riddled with bullet holes, along a river bank in the village territory. The authorities identified the Ranger as owned by the town while the Navarra as belonging to Crisologo.
On January 4, one of the alleged passengers of the Ford pick-up, Nonoy Blaza, surfaced to “tell his version of the incident” said Abra police director Sr. Supt. Ceasar Tannagan. The individual also filed counter charges against the occupants of the Navarra.
Involved in the shootout from Crisologo’s camp are Kagawad Jayron Martinez, 31, a resident of Brgy. Baybayatin and currently employed as his driver. He was with a Brix Aquino Donato, 17 years old, from Brgy. Poblacion.
In sworn statements furnished by their lawyer, they alleged that Blaza, together with Benjie Andres Vista, Geronimo “Jerome” Pasiguen Andoy, Jaypee Agapito “Ipit” Bersamira and Jackiemar “Baldat” Escalante shot at their vehicle.
In Donato’s narrative, they were on their way to Brgy. Collago to pick-up a sick person on board the Nissan pick-up. When they reached the river bank they noticed the other vehicle behind them so they stopped. The Ford Ranger also halted then men alighted from the vehicle and opened fire.
He claimed they immediately drove away but the assailants pursued them and continued firing. They eventually outran the Ranger and drove to the barangay plaza and waited for the police to arrive.
Purportedly, Donato also saw the attackers alight from their vehicle, and Bersamira shooting their own vehicle before leaving the area.
Meanwhile, Luna claimed it was Blaza, driver of the Rural Health Unit (RHU), and his companions who were “ambushed” by Crisologo’s followers on board the white Nissan Navarra pick-up.
The provincial council last month issued two suspension orders, each for a period of 6 months, against Luna and his wife, Vice Mayor Chrisma Joy after the body found them guilty of “grave misconduct and dishonesty.” The charges stemmed from alleged “unimplemented” road project they reported as “completed” worth millions of pesos.
Abra governor Jocelyn Bernos appealed to both groups to “exercise political maturity”. She also tasked the police and the military “to thwart such kinds of incidents that taint the already improved electoral climate in Abra.”
“We do not need these kind of bravado,” she reiterated, while calling political leaders in the province “to instead focus on sustaining the gains of the province towards growth, prosperity and progress.”
A few days before, George Pastor-Sanidad, the punong barangay of Gaddani in the town of Tayum, was shot and killed by unknown assailants while having a videoke party with friends in his compound.
Unknown men also strafed the house of Arcely Parinas in Ba-i, Lagayan on the evening of December 28. She is running for sangguniang bayan with the Crisologo’s ticket.
In November last year, the house of Jovie Sindon, a known supporter of Crisologo was strafed by unidentified men with automatic rifles. No one was hurt in the incident.
Two weeks before this, two supporters of the incumbent governor were murdered in Dolores, Abra.
Abra, has a history of violent elections, it was removed from the list of hot spots in recent elections after the number of killings associated with warring political families dropped.
But a grenade explosion during the fiesta of La Paz town in January last year, that killed two policemen and wounded Abra representative Joseph Bernos and wife Mayor Menchie, placed the province under strict monitoring by the authorities during the barangay elections. # nordis.net