Cops try, fail to arrest Abra mayor

Bangued executive wanted for murder during 2007 canvassing of votes

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BAGUIO CITY—Police on Monday served an arrest warrant against Mayor Ryan Luna of Bangued, Abra, for a 2007 murder case but they failed to find the official in his house in Barangay Dangdangla in his town.

The warrant was in relation to the killing of Brenda Crisologo, wife of Tineg Mayor Edwin Crisologo, police said. Brenda Crisologo was shot and killed by a lone gunman during the canvassing of votes held in a school in the capital Bangued.

Judge Jaime Dojillo Jr., of the Bangued Regional Trial Court, issued the warrant after the Department of Justice approved a petition for review from Mayor Crisologo who had implicated Luna and six other suspects, led by Lenin Benwaren, a political rival and brother of the late Tineg Mayor Clarence Benwaren. Mayor Benwaren was slain in Laguna in 2002.

Cordillera police officials said they have yet to declare Luna as a fugitive because he has been communicating with the Abra police office for a possible surrender.

Police and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) have been watching Abra because of the history of violence in that province during the election season.

But lawyer Jose Nick Mendros, Comelec Cordillera director, said the peace and order situation in Abra remains stable.

On April 25, Abra’s election officer petitioned the Comelec to allow the police and military to monitor the May 13 elections from inside voting precincts and canvassing areas to ensure the safety of poll officials and teachers who will serve in the elections.

Comelec regulations ban armed government personnel from precincts and areas where ballots are counted, said lawyer Mae Richelle Belmes, Abra election officer.

But Belmes said the Abra election office had asked the Comelec to exempt “high risk” provinces, like Abra, from these regulations “for the security of our Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), as well as members of the Board of Canvassers (BOCs).”

She discussed the petition at a command conference of the joint security control center, which reviewed plans for distributing Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and other election materials in the Cordillera.

The Cordillera police said 2,440 policemen and 1,102 soldiers are in the region to protect 1,369 poll precincts. They have to closely watch nine Abra towns because of intense political rivalry among mayoral candidates.

Belmes said poll regulations allow BEIs and BOCs to request for policemen to stay close to polling precincts, but only within a 30-meter radius. Mendros endorsed the Abra Comelec office’s petition. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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