BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Five candidates for councilor in Pilar, Abra have withdraw their candidacies, according to the town’s Commission on Election office.
Macario Guzman, Timoteo Dasalla, Rogelio Ciervo, Teresita Doral, and Leilanie Disono personally filed their Statement of Withdrawal of Certificate of Candidacy at the town’s Comelec office on Tuesday, April 6.
Comelec Pilar Election Assistant Melinda Garcia said no reason was given for the withdrawal. The Comelec form does not require a reason for withdrawal.
The five former candidates were running under Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) and are aligned with Mayor Maro Somera and Vice Mayor Jaja Josefina Disono, who are both running for reelection.
They backed out of the race just days after the vice mayor and her bodyguards figured in a shooting incident with members of the Philippine National Police at a checkpoint near the municipal hall.
Rappler tried to contact some of the politicians involved but has yet to get a response. We will update this story as new developments come in.
‘Hot pursuit operation’
On March 29, LGU Pilar post on its Facebook page CCTV footage of police cordoning the residential compound of Disono. A voice can be heard, claiming that the police ambushed the vice mayor’s vehicle and were harassing people inside the compound.
The Police Regional Office Cordillera denied the allegation, saying in a statement released on the same day that the incident was part of “a legitimate hot-pursuit operation.”
The police said they were after a Toyota Hi-Ace van that sped off from a checkpoint set up by the local police and the Regional Mobile Force Battalion members, and followed the vehicle which entered the Disono compound.
“Two personnel of RMFB 15 who are serving as advance security were hit by the said motor vehicle,” the regional police office said, adding that that while fleeing, the persons in the van fired on the cops and hit their vehicle.
A member of Disono’s team, identified as Sandee Boy Bermudo, died in the incident.
The tension eased the following day after Cordillera police chief Brigadier General Oliver Lee negotiated the surrender of 12 security aides of Disono, all former military men. They are now under the custody of the Philippine Army.
The vice mayor’s camp also surrendered to the PNP 14 licensed firearms, which will be subject to forensic examination.
“We have received reports that the armed suspects were either retired law enforcement officers or civilians from Mindanao who belonged to a group called Blackwater,” Lee said.
Siblings Somera and Disono are running for reelection against Nacionalista Party’s mayoral candidate Tyron Beroño and vice mayoral aspirant Samson Laguesma.
In several media interviews, the vice mayor claimed that the incident was related to the upcoming polls.
The Cordillera police chief also ordered the Abra Police Provincial Office to probe the incident thoroughly.
Pilar is among the nine Abra towns the Comelec placed under “yellow category,” along with Bangued, Dolores, Penarrubia, Pidigan, Tayum, San Juan, Lagayan, Tineg, and Lagayan. The rest of the 18 municipalities are under “green” category.
The Comelec considers the conduct of elections in areas under the green category as generally orderly and peaceful, while those in the Yellow category have the presence of intense political rivalry. – Rappler.com
Sherwin de Vera is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.