NPA leader to become first time voter

- Artemio Dumlao -

Bangued, Abra , Philippines  – Abra’s top communist party leader Jovencio Balweg Sr. is registering as a bona fide voter for the 2010 elections, his first move to enter traditional electoral politics, a great shift from what he had been fighting against all of his life.

Probably exercising for the first time his constitutional right of suffrage, Balweg Sr., who has since been in detention at Camp Crame since his capture on June 19 in Baguio City, is scheduled to become a “first time voter” on Thursday.

Balweg Sr. has been an NPA leader in Abra for the past four decades, rising from the ranks to become a member of the executive committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Party Committee.

In time for another hearing on his murder and frustrated murder cases including his rebellion raps before the Regional Trial Court Branch 2 in Bangued town Thursday next week, Balweg Sr. will register with the Comelec, said veteran human rights lawyer Reynaldo Cortes of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).

Registering probably for the first time as a voter in his hometown Malibcong in Abra, Balweg Sr. will be entered into the roster of voters “in a very special way too.” Instead of him going to his hometown, the local Comelec officer will go to him to have his biometrics. “He cannot possibly go to Malibcong because of security reasons, so it is more viable if the Comelec officer in the town will instead head to Bangued after the hearing to register him,” said Cortes.

With his registration as a voter next week, Balweg Sr., whose wife Carmen and namesake son-Jovencio Jr. and wife also surrendered to authorities after the elder Balweg’s arrest. “Talk” is rife that the CPP-NPA leader is eyeing local politics now.

During his first hearing in July, Balweg Sr., who is suffering from a multitude of illnesses told reporters he is not thinking of going back to the mountains anymore to rejoin his comrades.

Hometown’s mayor

Various sectors are reportedly backing Balweg Sr.’s candidacy for the topmost position in his hometown. “He will make a good leader with his visions for Abra,” said by a high ranking police official who begged off to be named.

Even former colleague in the CPP-NPA, now mayor of Lacub – Cesar Barona believes Balweg Sr. will make it in 2010 should he decide to run.

Reportedly, if Balweg Sr. runs, nobody will contest him in the race because of his popularity in his hometown.

Undeniably in Abra, like Barona, former NPA leaders who ran for elective posts never lost against their opponents. Barona’s brother Leo, also a former NPA commander became mayor of Lacub town in the late 80’s.

But this excluding Balweg Sr.’s own brother Conrado, a former SVD priest-turned rebel in the 70s, ran but lost in the congressional race in the early 90s.

The former priest’s integrity among Abreños, however, was reportedly tainted when he turned his back on the NPA and formed the paramilitary group – Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) in 1986.

Mayor in jail?

The other thing peculiar in Balweg Sr.’s situation too, added Cortes, is that he will be serving as a mayor in jail.

That is if the court will not free him before he wins in the May 2010 polls.

Balweg Sr. is now petitioning the court to drop the murder and frustrated murder raps lodged against him in connection with the Dec. 31, 1999 murder of his brother. “Because the crime is absolved in the rebellion raps,” said Cortes.

Abra NPAs immediately claimed responsibility of killing the former rebel-priest Conrado Balweg in 1999 for his alleged “blood debts” while leading the CPLA.

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