by Norma Hennessy (http://thefilipinoaustralian.com)
Abrenians worldwide have sought the social media to express their terror for their families and relatives about their fear that Abra is now beginning to rival Maguindanao for political blood thirst.
Judging from the killing rampage that’s going on of known candidates aspiring for local barangay positions or their allies, that fear is not unfounded.
The terror was precipitated by a series of slaying that’s taking on a weeding-like pattern that infers ‘political cleansing’ or ‘political purging.’
On September 16, 2013 Barangay Captain Arnulfo Madriaga was fatally shot in San Diego, Pidigan, Abra by motorcycle riding men. On October 7, Elmer Ermino Galera was shot in Sagap, Bangued, Abra. On the same day, Arnold Alvarez Bajo was fatally shot in Zone 5, Bangued. These two events were followed by a series of killings: on October 9, 2013, Farmer Crisencio Molina was fatally shot in Cabaroan, Tayum, Abra; on October 14, Barangay Captain Raymond Evangelista in Bangued was fatally shot; on October 16, Barangay Council aspirant Silvestre Donato Sr. was gunned down in Pulot, Lagayan, Abra; on October 18, Abrenian Lawrence Villano was slain in the neighbouring San Julian, Vigan, Ilocos Sur.
Prior to 2013 May elections, in dubbing Abra as ‘Killing Fields of the North’, local media drew attention from the National Government, prompting the Philippine National Police headquarters to provide conscientious reinforcement on security in order to prevent deterioration of peace in the province. The extra vigilance of the military somehow debunked that negative image temporarily. However, if such move allayed frantic fears of Abrenians overseas who worried about their families, the much celebrated temporary peace merely reinforced nonchalant contempt among the local residents who have been benumbed by unmitigated wastage of lives in previous elections.
Nevertheless, with the overt and active presence of the PNP in the province before the May 2013 elections, there was none of the previous elections’ bloodshed that people had resignedly come to associate with local elections.
Right after the winners were declared by COMELEC in the May election, military presence disappeared. And Abra’s peace and order took to its old hilly-billy reality of ‘gun-rule’ for power play.
With the October 28 Barangay elections in sight, it’s come to a head.
Meanwhile, in a far cry stance from its previously vocal assertiveness, the local media has scrimped down to a squeak or merely making passing mentions about the deteriorated peace and order.
There was also an overt weather-like change of attitude amongst the now-safely ensconced local authorities in the province from being deeply concerned to being blasé . These same leaders who were previously keen on ‘peace keeping, ’ so much so that they even engaged high profile military presence in the province so as to ensure peace, have suddenly turned deaf and blind about the deteriorated post –election situation.
At this time of the ‘lowlier’ barangay elections, the small people (grassroots) who aspire for seats in the upcoming elections seem to be just falling like dominoes.
God have mercy to those who do not heed the quaintly delivered warning to forego any aspiration to serve and go against those endorsed by the powers above. Barangay positions, being crucial in tactical maneuvering for the political powerplay amongst the local ‘big boys’, have become cause of lives wasted. Yet, there seems to be no sign of the previous active presence of PNP or military vigilance. It is as if, the whole province has been left to its own devices with its own brand of rustic laws.
Abra it seems has been abandoned by the national government unto itself and for the authorities there to do as they please – no questions asked. It is a feudally–immersed province even up to this age of space travel where the people are either just slaves or autocratic masters.
The disadvantaged grassroots, half of whom are indigenous and are living in the now- environmentally wrecked and mining-pillaged uplands, are not only kept at bay from information, but they are also socially excluded from humanitarian benefits. They are kept ignorant of their civil and human rights while being further enslaved to serve the whims and fancy of the other class – the privileged sector of the populace.
Categorically, the ‘grassroots’ are the only other class of people in Abra apart from the political families, their allies and cohorts. And the grassroots make up a dehumanized social sector that time and again, the wider world has forgotten.
Abra forms part of the heart of the Cordilleras. It would be an untold tragedy if the National Government will not turn a concerned eye about the internal on-goings of the province and its neglected people.
And that time is NOW!