MANILA, Philippines – Authorities of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) are eyeing a “non-Comelec controlled” Abra for the upcoming 2013 elections, Cordillera police director Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong said on Friday.
Abra, which has a history of political violence during elections, has been tagged as one of the 15 “high risk” provinces in the coming elections.
Magalong admits that violence still persists in the province due to a high number of private armies and loose firearms, but he said measures are being undertaken to curb election-related violence.
“Ang aming short-term vision ngayon is a non-Comelec controlled Abra in the upcoming elections. Iyan ang patungo namin and we have the alignment of all the stakeholders sa Abra…Since 1998 kasi lagi siyang Comelec controlled. This time, ang goal namin is a non-Comelec controlled Abra,” Magalong told ANC’s “News Now”.
In the May 2010 presidential elections, Abra was placed under the control of Comelec following a string of poll-related violence in the area.
Private armies, loose firearms
Magalong said police are currently monitoring 6 private armies in Abra, but he noted that the number of members has significantly decreased.
“We are following a peacekeeping strategy and we started it since November last year. As a result of this, sa 86 members ng private armed groups, ngayon ay 31 nalang. Sa 55 na na-neutralize, 44 surrendered and these are properly documented,” he said.
He also said there are still an estimated 2,700 loose firearms in the province, but steps are being taken to seize these weapons.
Magalong added that peace groups and other non-government organizations have supported the peacekeeping strategy in the province.
He noted that there have been positive developments in peace and order in Abra, particularly the improved cooperation of political leaders and lessened presence of armed bodyguards.
Also named by Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas as “high risk” provinces are Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Cavite, Masbate, Samar, Misamis Occidental, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan.
“Itong 15 probinsiyang ito dito ‘yung pinaka-high-risk na magkaroon ng karahasan sa darating na halalan kaya ito ‘yung pina-prioritize na probinsiya,” said Roxas.