Death Squad Freely Roams in Abra Town


A death squad is reported to be freely roaming around the town of Tineg, Abra despite being identified as the group behind a spate of killings that started after the May elections last year. The victims of these killings so far include a Sangguniang Bayan (People’s Council) member in Bangued, who was slain on May 20.

BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 17, June 1-7, 2008

A death squad is reported to be freely roaming around the town of Tineg, Abra despite being identified as the group behind a spate of killings that started after the May elections last year. The victims of these killings so far include a Sangguniang Bayan (People’s Council) member in Bangued, who was slain on May 20.

“The Police Regional Office in the Cordillera (PROCOR) Director Eugene Martin has failed to put a stop to the killings,” said Estelita Cordero, lawyer of Tineg Mayor Edwin Crisologo.

The PNP can easily arrest the perpetrators. “How can the court issue arrest warrants when the police have not filed the appropriate cases? They (police) sit on these cases,” she added in a text message.

Fearful and indignant residents are now urging PNP director-general Avelino Razon to relieve Martin for his failure to stop the perpetrators, Cordero said.

Two political allies of the mayor in the SB are said to have been victims of the death squad.

Nordis has not received answers to its queries sent in text messages to Martin and PNP-Abra chief Alex Pumecha.

Latest death squad victim

Believed to be the latest victim in the spate of killings was Pedro Inon, 65, a member of the Tineg Sangguniang Bayan. He was shot dead on May 20 while inside his residence at Kalaba, Bangued, Abra.

Cordero added that another Tineg SB member, Resty Eduarte, and three companions were shot at last March 29 in Bangued. Eduarte was wounded while his companions were unhurt. The gunman was never arrested, she added.

Eduarte and Inon, the top Tineg SB members, are political allies and all members of the local Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), headed by Crisologo.

More victims

The killings attributed to the said Tineg death squad involved the following victims: Jonard Gaoilan, Aquino Buyao, and Tony Deog on Feb. 1 at the Malecnac River (in Tineg); Dominador Balucas and Renato Liya who were ambushed on Sept. 30, 2007 at the Sitio Vira, Alaoa (Tineg); and Brenda Crisologo, wife of the Tineg mayor, who was shot on May 17, 2007 in Bangued.

Brenda Crisologo’s killer Tony Buyao – an alleged ally of Lenin Benwaren who is an opponent of Mayor Crisologo, was reportedly killed by pursuing PNP operatives on the same day.

Witnesses at the Malecnac River killings described the perpetrators as six fatigue-wearing men, who were later identified as Antolin Lidao, Jaworski Ayaba, Magno Blanco, Roger Dican, Agapito Cammagay, and Ricky Latawa. All are allegedly allied with the Benwarens.

Witnesses at the Alaoa ambush identified the alleged perpetrators as Boyet Ayaba, Ricky Lantawa, Jaworski Ayaba, Leny Saguid, Rey and Roy Tandi, all residents of Alaoa, Tineg.

All the witnesses issued their sworn statements, Cordero said in a press statement.

Call for impartial investigation

Nordis learned that the Tineg Sangguniang Bayan has passed a resolution condemning the killing of Inon and has called for “a swift and credible investigation of Inon’s murder.”

The widow Estelita Inon denies that Crisologo has anything to do with the fatal shooting of Inon. “The mayor and Inon are close political allies and are even relatives,” she said in a text message.

Cordero said she has appealed to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for an independent investigation and a police contingent to Abra to dismantle the Tineg Death Squad.

Stop the reign of terror

Luis Putol Sawadan, a youth leader in Tineg, urged for the creation of a task force to be headed by a neutral PNP officer. “The PNP should hunt the fatigue-wearing gunmen and arrest their employers too,” he said.

He added that the “reign of terror” in Tineg and the rest of Abra must stop “since we do not want to inherit a ghost town, with the remaining residents cringing in fear as the Tineg Death Squad members roam around freely, fearing neither the police nor the law.”

“My fellow farmers have stopped attending to their fields, dreading any encounter with the Tineg Death Squad, who shoot people as if they are birds,” added Marlyn Batoon of the Cagayanan Farmers Association.

Upland Tineg, the biggest town of Abra, has a total land area of 82,893 hectares. Its population of 6,000 are mostly farmers who traverse rugged trails, rivers and mountains to deliver their agricultural produce to the lowlands. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat

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