2022 Philippine Elections

Former mayor accused in Bagued, Abra, slay cries ‘harassment’

Sherwin de Vera
Former mayor accused in Bagued, Abra, slay cries ‘harassment’
(1st UPDATE) In another Abra town, Pilar, the mayor and vice mayor are in hiding with nobody left on their council slate following a shootout with cops

BAGUIO CITY – Former Bangued mayor Ryan Luna called a police complaint alleging he masterminded the April 27 killing of Angad village chief Ronie Bringas as “harassment.”

In a May 2 phone interview with Rappler, Luna said the latest allegation against him was “harassment. “

Alam mo naman, eleksyon kaya idinadawit ako … yan lang naman kasi ang panlaban nila sa akin, he said. 

(They are implicating me because it’s election season…  that is all they have to fight me.) 

At kung titignan mo, yung lawyer, siya rin yung nagdiin sa akin sa nakaraang mga kaso na nadismiss naman pagdating sa korte,” he added. 

(If you look at the lawyer, it’s the same person who filed the previous cases against me that the court dismissed.) 

Police added Luna to an amended murder complaint filed with the provincial prosecutor after the main suspect, Robert Millare, confessed his involvement on May 4 and executed a sworn statement pointing to the comebacking mayoral candidate.

This is not Luna’s first criminal complaint.

The former mayor also lumped under harassment a murder charge in connection with the 2007 killing of Brenda Crisologo, the wife of Tineg Mayor Edward.

Luna believes Millare’s statement was made under duress, noting the suspect’s beaten look in the mugshot.

The police said lawyer Estrelita Cordero assisted Millare for his sworn statement.

Luna admitted to meeting Millare in 2019, but said the suspect was never a regular acquaintance or part of his team.

The former mayor said he had yet to receive a copy of the complaint and was ready to face his accusers in court. 

Meanwhile, the beleaguered mayor and vice mayor of Pilar town, wanted by police for human trafficking, have no candidate left in their council slate.

Poll chief uses emergency powers, puts Abra town under Comelec control

Poll chief uses emergency powers, puts Abra town under Comelec control

Police filed trafficking complaints on April 6 against Mayor Maro Somera and Vice Mayor Jaja Josefina Disono for recruiting a dozen ex-military men into becoming their security personnel after a March 29 shootout and standoff that killed one of the vice mayor’s security detail.

With no slate, and currently in hiding, the siblings have a problem fielding watchers to safeguard their votes. Somera is facing a challenge from Tyron Beroña while Disono is opposed by Samson Laguesma.

Comelec Chairperson Saidamen Pangarungan on May 4 placed Pilar town under the poll body’s control and ordered the relief of the town’s entire police force. 

The Regional Mobile Police Force Battalion 15 (RMPFB 15) of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) replaced  all the town’s 27 police officers.

Abra town police force replaced after Comelec takes control

Abra town police force replaced after Comelec takes control

The case is complicated because the National Bureau of Investigation also filed murder complaints against several police officials in Abra and Pilar for the death of one of the vice mayor’s security detail.

Included in the NBI complaint are Cordillera Administrative Region Police Regional Director Brigadier General Ronald Lee and Abra Provincial Director Colonel Maly Castillo for the death of one of the vice mayor’s security detail.

The Comelec chair also said he received confidential reports from regional election director, Ederlino Tabilas and other sectors, “disclosing the apparent bias of the local police detachment in Pilar, Abra.” 

“There were also reports of threats and intimidation to some supporters of certain candidates in Pilar,” Pangarungan said. 

“The mayor, vice mayor and even the councilors are already hiding because they feel that they cannot be protected by the local police,” he added.

Somera and Disono are siblings and children of former Abra vice governor Rolando Somera, whose murder in 2017 remains unsolved.

The shootout prompted the Commission on Elections to place Pilar under the “red” category, assigned for areas where fierce rivalries are accompanied by the presence of armed groups that have engaged in violence.

5 councilor bets in Abra town withdraw after shooting incident involving ally

5 councilor bets in Abra town withdraw after shooting incident involving ally

Five members of their council slate, Macario Guzman, Timoteo Dasalla, Rogelio Ciervo, Teresita Doral, and Leilanie Disono filed their Statement of Withdrawal at the town’s Comelec office on Tuesday, April 6, the same day cops filed the trafficking complaints.

On April 7, incumbent councilor George Dela Rosa Sotelo and Cresencia Sotelo Ferido tendered their own withdrawals. Incumbent Sangguniang Bayan Member Mario Molina Bañez followed on April 13.

Bangued, Abra’s capital and the towns of Dolores, Penarrubia, Pidigan, Tayum, San Juan, Lagayan, Tineg, and Lagayan are under “yellow category” – areas with intense political rivalry. – Rappler.com

Sherwin De Vera is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.