Abra Cops Accused of Ransacking Houses

Village officials accused the police of unlawfully searching and ransacking 21 houses. The police officers’ decision to set up checkpoints and conduct interrogations is said to have dire consequences on the image of Abra province which plans to promote its bamboo industry to foreign investors.

BY ACE ALEGRE
Northern Dispatch
Reposted by Bulatlat

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Police officers under Task Force Abra were criticized by community leaders of Baranggay (village) Cagayanan, Tineg town in Abra, northern Philippines for unlawfully searching and ransacking 21 houses there last Jan. 14.

Task Force Abra Commander Sr. Supt. Eugene Martin denied the incident and said that there were no complaints that reached him. However, baranggay kagawad (village councilor) Anita Ci-o and Nestor Martinez, baranggay secretary Amarilyn Batoon and Baranggay Lupon (village council) members Dulawen Limag and Cesario Viste chided police officers from the Regional Mobile Group for the entry of some houses without warrants when interviewed by the Abra-based Catholic Media Network radio DZPA.

The village officials said that the police officers were irked when they found no one in most of the houses. According to them, most of the people were out working on their rice fields and checking their wild animal snares in the forests.

Martin said that they served a search warrant Jan. 14 on a known warlord allegedly maintaining armed goons in Tineg town but found only a shotgun in his house. “May nag-timbre yata kaya ganun.” (Someone may have tipped the owner of the house.)

The village officials also resented the police officers’ failure to coordinate with them on the raid.

Earlier, complaints of abuses by Task Force Abra police officers were also reported by local residents. Visitors have also complained about the setting up of checkpoints and the manner in which they are questioned by the police.

Beijing, China based-International Network on Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) Philippine representative Carmelita Bersalona complained that her right to travel and privacy was violated “because of the insistent and unreasonable interrogations done by the officers and men of the Task Force.” She said that she was asked questions asked like where she came from and what she did there, as well as where she is going and what she will do.

Bersalona said that there are possible negative consequences of this manner of conducting the checkpoints which she described as “even more than the martial law years.”

She also claimed that this is not healthy for the province particularly in the conduct of business, especially now that Abra is anticipating the coming of visitors to look into how they could possibly help the bamboo industry. Bamboo has been chosen as the province’s One Town, One Product (OTOP) and the local government is currently taking advantage of the technical and financial support from the Philippines and abroad. (Bulatlat.com)

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