ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/25 April) — The Philippine National Police ordered its anti-riot police unit back to the barracks after a follower of Iligan City Mayor Celso Regencia suffered a cardiac arrest at the barricades set up by other supporters on Monday.
Jerry Abarca, 51, died at the Gregorio Lluch Memorial Hospital where he was brought after he collapsed at the barricades set up by fellow supporters in front of the Iligan City jail in Barangay Tipanoy Monday dawn.
Chief Supt. Aaron Aquino, ground commander, said anti-riot policemen were sent to disperse some 2,000 followers of Regencia who is being detained at the city jail.
But he said he called off the dispersal because “we do not want anybody to get hurt. We do not want a part 2 of the Kidapawan incident”.
“One supporter has already died of cardiac arrest and we have not started the dispersal yet,” he told reporters.
Aquino said they were supposed to bring Regencia to the Regional Trial Court in Initao town, Misamis Oriental for arraignment.
“We have to find another peaceful option other than dispersing these people. The court should understand the implications of its order to bring Regencia to Initao,” he said.
The plan to bring Regencia to Initao on Monday morning was the fourth attempt after his supporters continued to barricade the road leading to the city jail.
Monsignor Jemar Vera Cruz, Regencia’s ally and spokesperson, said they will vehemently oppose any attempt to bring the mayor out of the city jail.
Vera Cruz, who took a sabbatical leave from his priestly duties to run as vice mayor of Regencia, said their opponents will take advantage of the absence of the mayor and assume his duties.
“Once they take over, our opponents will have the financial resources of the Iligan City coffers,” he said.
He confirmed that Abarca was a loyal follower who died while manning the barricades in front of the city jail Monday dawn.
Regencia, a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, is running for reelection against Iligan Vice Mayor Ruderic Marzo, a Liberal Party member.
The court in Initao has issued a warrant of arrest against Regencia and 10 other suspects in the Dec. 11, 2014 ambush of the convoy of Iligan Rep. Vicente Belmonte outside the airport in Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental.
Belmonte survived the ambush but three of his security aides died and three others were wounded. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)