Police force in Abra town relieved for ‘bias,’ says Comelec
MANILA, Philippines — The decision to place Pilar town in Abra under the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) control came amid reports that local police in the area were biased towards a particular camp, Comelec Chairperson Saidamen Pangarungan said on Wednesday.
During the 4th Comelec Command Conference held with the Philippine National Police (PNP), Pangarungan was asked as to why the poll body decided to place Pilar under Comelec control, despite previous pronouncements that such a rule would not happen.
“When I visited Bangued, Abra, I talked to the local PNP and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) officials, and they assured me that ang Pilar ay hindi na kailangang na i-declare ng Comelec control because ang peace and order condition doon ay okay,” Pangarungan told reporters.
“But later on, just recently, I received confidential reports from our regional election director, si Attorney Tabilas, and also the petition of the local government unit in Pilar disclosing the apparent bias ng local police detachment sa Pilar, Abra, and also ‘yong mga threats and intimidation to some supporters of certain candidates sa Pilar,” he added.
Pangarungan said this is the first time that he has used this emergency power to place an area under Comelec control immediately, given that the elections are just five days away.
“So with these revelations at saka itong recommendation ng Comelec regional director and the local government unit, I invoke my emergency power under Comelec Resolution No. 10777 to declare an area under Comelec control in urgent and meritorious cases,” he said.
“This is the first time that I exercise my emergency power, considering the proximity of the elections, which is only five days from now, kailangan ma-aksyunan ito agad, and I relayed our concern to the PNP chief, General Carlos for immediate action, and he assured me na aaksyunan ito kaagad,” he explained.
In reply, PNP chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos said he will talk to Police Regional Office Cordillera director Brig. Gen. Ronald Lee to discuss the issue, adding that he has ordered the relief of the whole Pilar Municipal Police Station — upon the recommendation of Pangarungan.
“Ang recommendation is to relieve the entire police force in Pilar, and that will include the chief of police. Kasi buo. Okay naman, basta palitan na lang ‘yong entire police detachment sa Pilar para magkaroon tayo ng peaceful, orderly, and honest elections,” the Comelec chief said.
It could be remembered that Comelec previously classified Pilar as a “red” area of concern — the highest in the polling body’s standards — after the shootout between the security team of Pilar Mayor Jaja Josefina Disono and local police officers.
Pangarungan, meanwhile, said that the decision to place the whole Misamis Occidental under Comelec control was borne from fears that violent activities may spill over to other towns.
“Sa Misamis Occidental, province-wide ‘yan, because of the unanimous recommendation ng members of the regional joint security control center, composed of the regional election director Francisco Pobi, ‘yong kay Police Brig. Gen. Benjamin Acorda ang PNP Regional Director; si Maj. Gen. Wilbur Mamawag ng 4th ID; at saka si Maj. Gen. Generoso Ponio, commander of the 1st ID,” he said.
“They were unanimous in recommending that the province of Misamis Occidental be declared under Comelec control because of their fear na baka mag-spill over ‘yong related na mga violence in the province sa mga ibang municipalities,” he added.
Aside from Pilar town and Misamis Occidental, Comelec has already placed under its control the towns of Buluan, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Datu Piang, Mangudadatu, Pandag, and Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao; Marawi City, Malabang, Tubaran, and Maguing in Lanao del Sur.
This was because of potential election-related violence in the said areas.
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