PNP: No more private armed groups in Abra
BAGUIO CITY—Abra has disbanded all private armed groups (PAG), many of them maintained by local politicians, for which the province had become notorious in previous elections, the Cordillera police said on Wednesday.
“Officially, there’s no more PAG operating in Abra,” said Police Col. Christopher Acop, regional community relations officer and former Abra police director, during a press briefing here.
The provinces of Benguet, Apayao, Mountain Province and Ifugao, and Baguio City are expected to have smooth and peaceful elections for having no history of extreme political rivalries or poll violence.
Only Tabuk City and Lubuagan town, both in Kalinga province, are being monitored as “areas of concern” in the region, Police Brig. Gen. Ronald Oliver Lee, Cordillera police director, said in the same meeting, adding that conditions there may improve as the country moves closer to electing new leaders on May 9.
Abra used to draw attention during elections because of violence involving rival politicians in that province.
Following an Inquirer expose in 2005, a government fact-finding team confirmed that moonlighting policemen and soldiers were being hired as security officers for prominent political families in Abra. The process of dismantling these armed groups took years.
In 2012, a crackdown on loose firearms there, combined with negotiations with influential families, helped break up 55 PAGs. The number of armed groups was reduced to 31 that year under the command of former Cordillera police director and now Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong.
According to Acop, former PAG members underwent a process of disbanding so “as of now … for the record, we no longer have PAGs or potential PAGs in Abra.”
The region’s towns and cities are given color codes related to their peace and order situation. Most of the Cordillera communities are labeled green, indicating that there is “no problem and no cause of concern” there, Lee said.
Orange means the presence of armed groups, while those in red, like Tabuk and Lubuagan, are “deemed as critical areas,” he said.Tabuk remains peaceful in the run-up to this year’s elections.“No election-related incidents have been reported,” said lawyer John Martin, Baguio election director, who has been assigned to the Kalinga capital during the polls.
He said Tabuk was under close monitoring due to “political rivalries in the provincial arena” which could drag in their respective allies in the city unless interventions are made.
Lubuagan, meanwhile, is being watched because of clan disputes that may disrupt the campaign.
Lee said 207 election checkpoints had been put up around the region, manned by 1,712 policemen and Army soldiers.
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