BAGUIO CITY (Dec. 21) — Cordillera police has beefed up its forces in Abra province, in a very tensed situation now, intending to douse fears of further violence.
Cordillera police spokesman Sr. Supt. Joseph Adnol said 50 more policemen from Cordillera and a platoon more of Special Action Force were dispatched “to secure the province”.
This in addition to several more operatives from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Cordillera led by Sr. Supt. Eduardo Bayangos who are digging their fingers on every nook and cranny in the province looking for clues on the Saturday last week’s killing of Rep. Luis Bersamin and his bodyguard in Quezon City.
Lull before the storm
Six months ago, Abra touted as “Northern Luzon’s Killing Fields”, according to the police showed a simmering down of hostilities. Although Cordillera police admitted then that they sense a very volatile situation although vowed an improved one compared to the past.
Not until of late, when Bersamin was gunned down on December 16 that Cordillera policemen can eat their words.
On Monday night, only a day after Bersamin was waylaid, a rest house of Dolores mayor Albert Guzman was sprayed with automatic gunfire and was almost razed.
No one knows what is next.
Intense political rivalries
Abra is now on heavy guarding, six months after Cordillera police director Chief Superintendent Raul Gonzales acknowledged that the northern mountain province is in close guarding because of the long standing political rivalry between factions in Abra.
Political rivalry, according to the police remains a factor leading to the solution of the situation.
Six months ago, Gonzales said warring factions failed to settle their differences that has also led to murders of some officials.
Indeed, the murderous rampage continued. Right on New Year this year, very young La Paz town Mayor Ysrael Bernos, 31, was gunned down right in his hometown on January 13 while watching a basketball game he sponsored in his town’s fiesta.
Investigators has yet to declare any development on the case.
Mid this year, the Cordillera police said they were able to establish that most of the recent killings were not politically-motivated but were emanating from personal grudges.
Crime incidence records from January to May this year only shows a total of 79 crime incidents where 49 comprise index crimes such as homicides, murders, rapes, physical injuries, robberies and thefts. Only five of these are reportedly “politically-motivated”.
Earlier on, on November 28, 2005 came the killing of DAR-Abra employee Albert Terredaño, a human rights activist. Terredaño was heading to his office in
Bangued, the capital town of Abra when gunned down by motorcycle-riding armed men.
Terredaño’s killing is reportedly being linked to his involvement as DAR arbitrator in the rift between farmers and an irrigators’ association supposedly being controlled by powerful politicians.
Came also several other killings that peaked tension in the province, the most celebrated before Rep. Bersamin was his relative — Board Member James
Bersamin – gunned down while jogging at the Bangued town plaza last month. Like the previous murders, none came out from the police investigations except for statistics.
Also the night after BM Bersamin was gunned down,a barangay captain and three other farmers in remote Tineg town were also gunned down.
Several weeks after, a businesswoman then a court employee were reported by Cordillera police to have been gunned down in Bangued.
And like the past slays, all went down in history as mere numbers.
Stay calm in the midst of tension?
Amidst the tension, Governor Vicente Valera is appealing to Abreños to stay calm and maintain sobriety.
This as many Abreños fear of bloodshed especially that elections is just around the corner. “Agrugin san ti gubat (War seemed to have started),” said an Abreño who begged not to be named.
“We wait for due process to take its course, and the wheel of justice to turn,” the governor said as he warned his constituents including Bersamin’s family not to take justice into their hands.
“Let the PNP leadership leave no stone unturned, and prosecute immediately the perpetrators of the brazen crime,” Valera, Rep. Bersamin’s childhood friend, political ally and close relative said.
The Governor also warned his political detractors against pointing on him as the brains of Bersamin’s killing as he said “that has been the practice of his political foes every time a prominent person is killed in Abra”. Abreños know who really are those unabatedly and mercilessly killing people,” Valera said but without offering further hints on who he is referring to.
But even Valera himself taunted the police’s “incapacity in dismantling, neutralizing or wiping completely hired assassins belonging to private armed groups (PAGs),” even as the whole police force of Abra were reassigned to different areas in the Cordillera region last year by then Interior and local government secretary Angelo Reyes as one of the measures to avert the seemingly unabated killings. # Ace Alegre for NORDIS