IN light of escalating tensions and safety concerns, both teachers supposed to serve as Board of Election Inspectors and aspiring political candidates as well have withdrawn their bids for positions in the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKEs) in Abra province.
The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) reported that 44 BEIs have opted to withdraw from their duties. Furthermore, 122 candidates from various positions in Abra province have voluntarily withdrawn from the electoral race.
While precautionary measures have been implemented, Abra province currently bears a “yellow area” designation, signifying a moderate risk of election-related violence. The recent tragic shootout involving the police and ten Abra locals, which occurred during the electoral gun ban and resulted in one fatality, has intensified concerns surrounding the safety of the region.
Abra Provincial Election Officer Atty. Mae Richelle Belmes revealed that her office has urgently requested the Philippine National Police to reevaluate the situation in Bucay, Abra where the aforementioned shootout transpired, and allocate additional resources to maintain peace and order.
Although the police have not definitively linked the Bucay shootout to political violence, reports of harassment and intimidation efforts have surfaced. Teachers who withdrew from their election duties have reported that “armed individuals visited their residences and issued threats.”
Additionally, Belmes noted that there have been multiple allegations of vote-buying in the province, further exacerbating the already fragile situation.
Out of the 44 teachers who have withdrawn from their election responsibilities, 13 hail from Bucay, 14 from the municipality of Pilar (which was placed under Comelec control during the 2022 elections), three from Lagayan, six from Lagangilang, and eight from the capital town, Bangued.