Supporters of losing ABC bet threaten road closure in SouthCot

GENERAL SANTOS CITY(MindaNews/10 Dec.) — Police operatives have secured a provincial road leading to several upland villages in Tampakan town in South Cotabato following threats of blockade by supporters of a losing candidate for the area’s Liga ng mga Barangay or Association of Barangay Councils (ABC).

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said Tuesday she directed the Provincial Police Office to intervene over moves late Monday by the camp of former Tampakan ABC federation president and Barangay Maltana chair Cesar Ureta to block a portion of a provincial road that connects the town proper to three upland barangays.

She said supporters of Ureta, who had been claiming some portions of the road leading to Barangays Danlag, Pulabato and Palo 19 as part of his family’s property, declared on Monday afternoon to close down the road after the latter lost his reelection bid for the town’s ABC federation president.

The road blockade was reportedly intended to deny passage to the area of Palo 19 barangay chair Alexander Felisilda, who was a known supporter of Ureta’s rival Kipalbig barangay chair Alexey Cariaga, she said.

“I directed the provincial police to intervene since the threats, especially some text messages that were sent (by the Ureta camp), were quite disturbing. We don’t want it to escalate and trigger possible violence in the area,” the governor said.

Fuentes said the problem started when Cariaga earlier decided to challenge Ureta for the ABC federation’s top post.

Ureta represented the ABC federation, which is composed of 14 barangay chairs, in the municipal council in the last three years.

During the election on Monday morning for the new set of ABC federation officers facilitated by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Ureta and Cariaga came out tied with seven votes each.

Local DILG officials and the ABC federation members decided to break the tie via drawing of lots, which Cariaga eventually won.

Senior Insp. Sherwin Boy Maglana, Tampakan police chief, said they immediate secured the contested portions of the provincial road late Monday on orders from provincial police director Senior Supt. Romeo Ver.

“We did not see any actual blockade there but there’s some tension as a result of the threats,” he said in a radio interview.

The police official said that based on reports they received, the camp of Ureta was only targeting to deny Palo 19 barangay chair Felisilda’s access to the area.

He said Ureta’s supporters insisted that they’re not blocking the passage to the area of local residents, especially those from Barangays Danlag, Pulabato and Palo 19.

To resolve the situation, Maglana said he has been working out a meeting between the affected parties with Tampakan Mayor Leonardo Escobillo.

The governor backed the mayor’s intervention on the matter and expressed hopes for a proper resolution.

In the past local and national elections, Tampakan was identified by authorities as a potential hotspot due to previous records of election-related violence and intense rivalry among local politicians.

In 2001, the eldest child of then Tampakan Mayor Claudius Barroso was shot dead at the height of the election campaign.

In 2004, losing Tampakan mayoralty bet Gregorio Banal was shot dead two months after the elections that gave Barroso yet another term.

Barroso’s son Bienvenido won in the 2007 mayoralty race but he failed to assume the post after he was tagged as the alleged mastermind in Banal’s murder. In July last year, the young Barroso was acquitted of the charges by Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 6 Judge Jansen Rodriguez for insufficient evidence.

Last May, the elder Barroso tried to make a comeback but was defeated by incumbent Mayor Escobillo by a margin of around 5,000 votes.

Barroso’s camp has since filed an election protest against the reelected mayor for alleged irregularities during the polls. (MindaNews)