March 4, 2024

In spite of the denial of the various political camps in Abra, the ongoing political tension in the province goes beyond the supposed peaceful and orderly 2023 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections. The situation is also being seen as a prelude to the midterm elections in 2025.
In the recent Regional Joint Security and Command Conference (RJSCC) meeting, the Armed Forces of the Philippines pointed to the two reigning political clans as the ones responsible for the recent election-related incidents in the province.
The Commission on Elections, meanwhile, is not inclined on placing Abra under its control even with the withdrawal of 254 BSKE aspirants, which were mostly voluntary following the agreement among community elders.
But there are unofficial reports that some candidates withdrew from the race due to force and intimidation, or were assured of their safety or monetary consideration.
The Comelec Abra said the presence of dominant clans as handlers of the political clans highly contributes to the ongoing tension in Abra, as the Comelec is also verifying information that these political clans were said to supply money and goons to these politicians.
During the RJSCC meeting, the election officers from the rest of the provinces of Cordillera briefly reported normal operations for the preparation of the BSKE with the various local government units gladly offering their assistance.
But all eyes were on Abra’s report, which painted the sad reality of the province’s election process, which was once considered peaceful in terms of its political leadership.
Through the years, as once strong political allies become the worst enemies, Abra’s politics quickly become trickier and bloody, earning it the moniker as “The killing fields of the north.”
Perhaps the gravity of the political tension in the province culminated during the gruesome killing of former Rep. Luis “Chito” Bersamin, Jr. who was shot dead after attending the wedding of his niece at the Mt. Carmel Church in Quezon City in December 2006. His childhood friend and ally, former governor Vicente Valera, was later found guilty by the court as the mastermind with political rivalry as the motive for the gruesome murder.
Several mayors, board members, and councilors were likewise assassinated in the past three decades with the culture of fear and terror enveloping the province every election period.
This historical account of the intense political rivalries in the province brought a bad reputation to Abra. But the citizens therein are quick to cry out that there is more to the province than its bloody politics.
We are one with the citizens of Abra in hoping for a resolution to these senseless killings especially in relation to politics.
Even the warring political clans would agree that they would like for these killings to stop, and that justice would be served to these victims.
We refuse to believe that Abra can never move forward from what it is known now.
Efforts in attaining a peaceful election in Abra were done in the past. We believe it can be done again, if the warring political clans would sincerely sit down, lay down their arms, see eye-to-eye and talk. Cordillera is known to still apply its indigenous practice of tongtongan to resolve their difference, which is mostly being done by other provinces in resolving political conflicts.
We hope that Abra would mature towards peaceful politics, and for these concerned political leaders to truly understand what it means to be genuine public servants, who uphold the sanctity of all human life and ardent advocates of peace and prosperity.