MANILA—The explosion earlier this week in Jaen town, Nueva Ecija was related to the contested mayoral seat there, Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas said Wednesday, as the police try to defuse the tension between both parties.
In a statement, Sinas said he already directed PBGen. Valeriano De Leon, the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) regional director for Central Luzon, to meet with the Department of the Interior and Local Government for an “immediate solution” on the matter.
“The explosion at 8 p.m. on Tuesday in Poblacion Jaen has all the indications of political motive apparently related to the contested mayoral seat of the Municipality . . . This is already the second incident of this nature with striking similarities to the first incident of explosion and power blackout on December 20, 2020,” Sinas said in a statement.
The police chief said both explosions showed similarities based on the bomb signature and components used in the improvised explosive device.
This, he added, indicated “the possibility that it may be the handiwork of the same suspect.”
Sinas emphasized that while the police is still awaiting orders from the DILG as of this story’s posting, he already ordered De Leon and the Police Regional Office 3 to make sure that a “safe buffer is maintained” between the supporters of Sylvia Austria and Antonio Esquivel, who both claimed winning the mayoral seat.
“The PNP will not take sides on this political contest, but will be firm and decisive in enforcing the law and implementing legal orders,” said Sinas.
Following an electoral protest, Austria late last year stepped down as the town’s mayor after a regional court order sided on Esquivel’s win. This decision was upheld by the DILG.
Austria was initially declared the winner of the elections in May 2019.
Less than a month later, the Commission on Elections released an order declaring Austria the mayor, a directive that Esquivel refused to recognize.