Antique governor denies coddling armed groups
- Leo Solinap () - January 25, 2003 - 12:00am
SAN JOSE, Antique — Antique Gov. Salvacion Zaldivar-Perez has denied accusations that she is tolerating the presence of armed groups in the province.

"If he (Belison Mayor Christopher Piccio) is alluding to the RPA-ABB people, then I think that he is barking up the wrong tree. These people are covered by an ongoing peace accord with the national government, therefore (they are) not under my official jurisdiction. If any, the PNP and the AFP are the responsible entities for their presence here in our province," she said.

Perez said she has made negotiations with leaders of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) that they should not disturb the peace in the province.

In an interview with a radio station in Iloilo, Piccio said he, five other mayors and Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier are facing death threats.

Piccio disclosed this after a police officer accidentally shot a service vehicle of Javier, brother of former Antique governor Evelio Javier who was assassinated in February 1986.

Piccio alleged that there are people in the provincial government who are coddling the RPA-ABB, the New People’s Army and other armed groups. He called for an investigation into the matter.

Perez cited an official report from Inspector Sonny Alagos, police chief of Barbaza town, saying that the shooting of Javier’s car by PO1 Jupiter Gary Espartero was purely accidental.

Perez quoted the report as saying that Espartero, on his way to the Barbaza town proper from his house in Barangay Jinalinan, flagged down a passing vehicle while holding his service revolver. He accidentally released the trigger and the bullet caused a dent in Javier’s car which he mistook for a passenger vehicle.

Espartero admitted to his carelessness and negligence and he is now under the custody of the provincial police. His service firearm was also taken for ballistic tests.

Perez said this report disproves the allegations of some quarters that the incident was an ambush.

"How the incident happened is beyond my concern. The fact remains that somebody had admitted to the act, and not the armed men that Mayor Piccio likes people to believe," she said.

She said she has reason to suspect that her detractors are using the incident to justify their request for additional armed personnel.

"I go around with an armed security detail of two, not a platoon of bonneted armed escorts with a caliber .50 machine gun mounted on my vehicle. I think I don’t look or sound like I’m a coddler of a private army out to harass anybody," she said.

Perez expressed concern that negative news on the peace and order situation in Antique may abort her ongoing negotiations with foreign investors who are finalizing their investment plans in the province.

"More negative news on the peace and order situation in Antique may force them to scuttle their plans for the development of our province and our people," she said.

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