Lawmaker, mayor cheat death

ABRA Representative Joseph Santo Niño Bernos and La Paz Mayor Menchie Bernos survived a grenade blast, but a Special Action Force member who escaped the Mamasapano massacre three years ago was among the casualties.

The blast occurred during a fireworks display at the municipal town plaza in the early morning of January 25.

Initial investigation revealed that the incident happened around 1:30 a.m. while people were gathered at the La Paz town plaza to witness a fireworks display.

Killed in the incident were Police Officer (PO) 3 Carlos Baccali Bocaig and PO2 Frenzel Buneng Kitoyan, both members of the Abra Provincial Mobile Force Company.

The two were declared dead while undergoing treatment in a local hospital.

Congressman Bernos and his wife were immediately sent home after receiving treatment.

Wounded during the blast were acting La Paz Chief of Police Apdilon Galong, PO2 Richard Basiag, village chief Darroll Azdi Gonzales, Marc Rowjan Beronilla, Diosdado Mina, Jayson Bernabe Zales, Ryan Jun Camacho Marasan, Benedicto Doque Jr., Eva Marie Panagtay Sales, Juanito Zales, Leyze Rose Pe Benito, and a 17–year–old girl from Dolores, Abra.

Abra police immediately alerted all municipalities to conduct checkpoint, while a Regional Special Investigation Task Group headed by Deputy Regional Director for Operations Police Chief Superintendent Sterling Raymund Blanco has been activated to conduct a thorough investigation.

Newly installed Police Regional Office Cordillera Director Edward Carranza, meanwhile, called on the public to be extra vigilant at all times and to provide the necessary information to the various law enforcement agencies.

Governor Joy Bernos, in a press briefing Thursday afternoon, urged her provincemates to stay calm amid the incident, which she believes is an isolated act that was meant to disturb the province’s ongoing preparation for the upcoming Cordillera Administrative Region Athletic Association meet, which opens on February 4–9.

Bernos said she will leave the investigation to the police.

She dispelled rumors that it was political in nature.

“We ask everybody to remain calm, as we hope to sustain the peace effort in the province. Abra is still secure with the help of the PNP and the Philippine Army,” said. (With a report from Roderick Osis)
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