DO NOT WASTE EFFORTS TOWARD A PEACEFUL ABRA
The consistent categorization of Abra as an area of concern every election period since the late 90s is a dent to the decades-long efforts of many agencies to end poll-related violence in the province that resulted to multiple deaths and wounding of countless individuals.
Abra is a beautiful province known for its welcoming people, heritage sites, and its rich history but reports of the volatile peace and order situation in the area is giving the province a bad name.
The recent standoff between the police and the vice mayor of Pilar, Abra cannot be dismissed as an isolated one for the incident could be speaking volumes about the possibility that there may be a continuing recruitment of armed groups to protect politicians and other prominent personalities in the province.
While young politicians advocate for peaceful and orderly elections, some of them still end up having discreet private armed followers to protect them, as one cannot seemingly be in politics in the conflict-stricken province without armed supporters.
It took decades to dismantle private armed groups in Abra. This should not go to waste by politicians who might be trying to outwit authorities by disguising recruits merely as their “ security aides” but who are suspiciously armed.
The issue with the vice mayor of Pilar has gained prominence not only because of her aides’ willful disregard of a police checkpoint but also their brazen violation of the election gun ban.
As initial investigation showed, the vice mayor did not seek from the Comelec exemption from the ban’s coverage yet she willingly allowed her aides to carry arms. Worse, it turns out that the town’s mayor, who is also the vice mayor’s brother, is also involved in the unauthorized hiring of security aides.
Initial police investigation also revealed that some of these aides are working under the municipal government but are apparently working for the concerned officials in their personal capacity.
We find this information alarming for it appears that public funds are being used for the salaries of personal employees of the top officials of the town. This is practically cheating on the government for services supposed to be rendered to the public by their security aides are rendered to only a few.
As the Abra Police Provincial Office, with the assistance of the Police Regional Office-Cordillera has filed complaints before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, we hope that as the investigation progresses, more issues will be unearthed and those responsible should be held accountable.
With barely one month to go before the election, we hope the Pilar incident will remind the electorate to be discerning and vote for aspirants who can uphold the law, render genuine public service, and true to being called statesmen.
We also hope the police and military authorities not to let their guards down and address the peace and order issue in Abra holistically and not treat it as a mere occurrence during elections.
Efforts are continuing to improve the badly tainted name of Abra, but the incident in Pilar should not impair the move of many groups to correct the misimpressions about the province.
As we have claimed in the past, the uphill bid to attain lasting peace in Abra is not only the concern of the government but also a shared responsibility of the people in the province who continue to suffer from violence with the clash of political personalities over the past decades.