July 14, 2024

The Philippine National Police has filed criminal charges before the Abra Provincial Prosecutor’s Office against the mayor and vice mayor of Pilar, Abra along with their personnel in connection with the March 29 to 30 standoff involving private armed men and the police.
Mayor Mark Roland Somera and his sister, Vice Mayor Jaja Josefina Somera-Disono, are facing a case of violation of Republic Act 9208 as amended by RA 10364 or the Expanded Trafficking in Persons Act.  
“This is in connection with the surrender of the 12 former military men whom they employed as personal security aides after the March 29, 2022 stand-off at the compound of Somera/Disono family,” the Abra Provincial Police Office stated in a press release.
Also facing charges of serious disobedience to an agent or person in authority are Robert Toreno and Emmanuel Valera, both employees of the Pilar municipal government, and Disono’s helper, Jericho Bufil.
Police said Toreno, Valera, and Bufil were the ones who disregarded the joint PNP and Commission on Elections checkpoint.
Bufil is also facing a case of multiple attempted murder for allegedly firing at the pursuing police personnel.
A separate case for unauthorized employment of bodyguards or security aides is being readied against the mayor and the vice mayor while a case for violation of the gun ban was filed against the Disonos.
The cases stemmed from the two-day standoff involving Disono and her personnel against the Pilar Municipal Police Office.
Police investigation showed the heavily tinted van, which was tailing Disono’s car, failed to stop at the checkpoint set up at the town center. 
The police said the van rammed a police vehicle and Disono’s personnel allegedly shot at another police car, which prompted the police to fire back. The van then proceeded to the compound of Disono where they refused to come out and encamped for two days. 
On March 30, the 12 security aides of Disono submitted themselves to the authorities under the custody of the Philippine Army.
The incident resulted to the death of one of Disono’s security aide, Sandee Boy Bermudo. Following the incident, a 9 mm firearm registered under Disono was recovered from the vehicle.
Investigation showed that Disono has not availed any exemption from the election gun ban for her to be allowed to carry firearms outside of her residence.
Abra Police Provincial Director Col. Maly Cula said they have already strengthened the various checkpoints in the province to prevent similar incidents from happening. – Ofelia C. Empian