Philippine Daily Inquirer
BAGUIO CITY—Abra officials on Wednesday turned over their firearms, including imported high-caliber rifles, to the Philippine National Police for safekeeping and as part of a campaign to stop political killings in the province.
Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong, Cordillera police director, said Director General Nicanor Bartolome, PNP chief, attended the turnover rites in the capital Bangued. The rites were held there as part of the government’s Project Hope (Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections) for 2013.
Senior Insp. Alvin Fabro, Cordillera police public information officer, said 40 licensed automatic rifles and 10 unlicensed firearms were turned over to Magalong.
In exchange for relinquishing their firearms, the Abra politicians would be given bodyguards from the Cordillera police’s Special Action Force, he said.
Some of the firearms belong to officials like Abra Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin and Rep. Maria Jocelyn Bernos, Fabro said. The other firearms belong to suspected members of private armed groups, who are hired as security aides by local politicians.
A 2005 government fact-finding mission confirmed that some homicide cases during elections in Abra involved these private armed groups, as well as soldiers and policemen who were being paid by local politicians.
As a result of the fact-finding mission, the government reassigned the province’s police officers and replaced them with new ones under the Task Force Abra.
Last year, Magalong led talks with the province’s political clans and Carmelita Bersalona, who heads the Abra Peace Convenors Group, to try to end political conflicts. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon