PILAR, Abra: Brewing tensions in the compound of Vice Mayor Jaja Josefina Desuo peacefully ended late Wednesday afternoon after a series of negotiations initiated by officials of the Police Regional Office in the Cordillera Administrative Region succeeded in preventing a clash between the police personnel and allegedly armed bodyguards of the local official on Tuesday morning at Barangay Poblacion here.

The negotiations also resulted in the surrender of 12 former military personnel serving as the alleged bodyguards of the vice mayor and who submitted themselves to the custody of the Philippine Army for the conduct of a police investigation.

The bodyguards also surrendered to authorities 14 assorted firearms, mostly high-powered ones, for forensic examination.

At around 10:30 a.m. of March 29, a convoy of Deluso that included a white van, which came from the municipal hall en route to her residence, allegedly ignored a police checkpoint that was established by personnel of the Pilar Municipal Police Station and Regional Public Safety Battalion 15.

The incident caused the police personnel to chase the speeding vehicle, but the occupants fired at them several times, prompting the lawmen to return fire that resulted in the death of a bodyguard.

The bodyguard was later identified as Sandy Boy Bermudo based on an identification card that was recovered from the crime scene.

Pilar is one of the nine towns of Abra that had been initially categorized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as a yellow area, which indicates alleged presence of intense political rivalry among politicians aspiring for positions in the May 9, 2022 national and local elections.

Other towns under the yellow category are Bangued, Dolores, Pidigan, Penarrubia, San Juan, Tayum, Lagayan and Tineg.

Eighteen other municipalities have been categorized as green areas, which indicates that they are generally peaceful.

In the past, Abra had been tagged as the “Killing Fields of the North” because of the occurrence of numerous cases of election-related violence.

The Comelec is currently validating recommendations of various election offices on what category the province itself should be placed to ensure peaceful elections next month.

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