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PRO-COR recommends DQ vs Abra mayor, vice mayor
THE Police Regional Office Cordillera (PRO-COR) will file a string of criminal charges and a disqualification case against the mayor and vice mayor of Pilar, Abra who were found to be employing a group of former Marine and Army soldiers as unauthorized personal bodyguards following last Tuesday’s gun battle which ended up in a two-day standoff.
Cordillera Police Director Brigadier General Ronald O. Lee said they have recommended to Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año and Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief General Dionardo B. Carlos a series of actions in connection with the incident in Pilar municipality wherein bodyguards of Vice Mayor Josefina Jaja Disono ignored a police checkpoint and fired shots at officers.
An ensuing gunfight led in the killing of one of the suspects who turned out to be a dismissed member of the Philippine Marines and a standoff after the armed men holed up inside Disono’s compound before eventually surrendering on Wednesday along with 14 weapons.
The official said that as of press time, they are continuing their effort to recover more firearms and other deadly weapons in possession of the Disonos and other politicians in Abra that could be used as an “instrument of violence” during the May 9 national and local elections.
The Pilar mayor and vice mayor were found to be employing a private armed group and have not filed any request from the PNP to allow them to secure a gun ban exemption and have authorized bodyguards from the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Following the incident, Gen. Carlos commended the Cordillera region and Abra police officers and men led by Brig. Gen. Lee helped resolve the standoff and caused the surrender of the 12 suspects holed out inside the politician’s compound without shots being fired.
Brig. Gen. Lee said they have recommended the filing of appropriate criminal cases including direct assault on a person in authority, violation of the gun ban, and attempted murder against the occupants of the van that disregarded their checkpoint.
“We will also be filing a disqualification case for violation of the Omnibus Election Code against Vice Mayor Disono and her brother Mayor Mark Roland Somera who are both seeking reelection after we discovered they were employing unauthorized bodyguards,” the official said.
Lee said they will also recommend the revocation and cancellation of all gun privileges of the two politicians in connection with the case. These include the revocation of their License to Own and Possess Firearms, Certificate of Registration, and Permit-to-Carry-Firearms-Outside-of-Residence.
“We are also pressing our investigation of the background of the two’s security aides in order to determine if they have standing warrants of arrest or are involved in other similar gun-related cases in Abra as well as the shooting incident last Tuesday,” the official said.
In a report to Gen. Carlos, the Cordillera Police Director said that since last December, they have been validating a series of reports and information from concerned citizens that the Pilar mayor and vice mayor are allegedly maintaining a private armed group composed of retired or dismissed Armed Forces personnel, many of them recruited from Mindanao.
He said that they validated the information with the help of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Intelligence community and eventually found out that the complaints are accurate and true.
Brig. Gen. Lee said that last March 14, the Abra Police Provincial Office (PPO) received information that some 10 “unidentified suspicious individuals” were spotted at the compound of Mayor Somera in Bgy. Dalit prompted the conduct of a surveillance operation.
Two days later, Intelligence officers confirmed that the armed men were brought into Abra by a retired Marine official to act as personal bodyguards of Mayor Romera.
Last March 23, the same group of ex-military men was reported set to be reinforced by their former colleagues, some of them monitored to be even wearing bonnets.
Around 8:00 a.m. last Tuesday, members of the Pilar Municipal Police Station and the Cordillera Regional Mobile Force Battalion were dispatched to conduct a spot PNP-Comelec checkpoint along Beroña Street in Poblacion, Pilar.
The officers later flagged down a white Toyota Hi-Ace van with an unknown plate number around 10:30 a.m. but instead of stopping, the driver of the van stepped on the gas and bumped two officers, Lieutenant Boyd Leeson Kis-Ing and Patrolman Frenzel Alperez who both suffered abrasions and other body injuries.
The lawmen chased after the suspects but were fired upon. A bullet fired by one of the van occupants shattered the windshield of a police mobile car, which carried four officers.
The lawmen returned fire prompting the armed men to enter the compound of Vice Mayor Disono where they sought refuge.
Abra provincial forensic investigators who conducted an investigation at the Disono compound found the van with plate no. NDF 2499 and the body of a dead man later identified as Sandee Boy Bermudo, a 24-year-old former Marine trooper from Bgy. Soutside in Makati City.
Also recovered inside the van was a caliber 9mm pistol with a magazine containing 20 live ammunition.
The body of Bermudo was subjected to an autopsy and paraffin test while the vehicle was brought to the Abra PPO headquarters for a bullet trajectory examination, said Abra Police Director Col. Maly C. Cula.
As the Cordillera Police surrounded the vice mayor’s compound, Brig. Gen. Lee supervised all efforts to force the suspects to surrender and turn over their weapons.
Around 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, 12 of the suspects – 8 of them former Marine troopers and another an ex-Army soldier – finally surrendered accompanied by their Manila-based lawyer Raymund Fortun who immediately motored to Abra last Tuesday.
14 assorted firearms registered under the name of the vice mayor and her husband were also turned over to the Cordillera Police.
The weapons, which are now being subjected to a ballistics examination, include four different 9mm semi-automatic pistols, two cal. 40 pistols, three cal. 5.56 assault rifles, three 12-gauge shotguns, and two cal. .45 pistols.