‘GOONS’ SPOTTED IN CEBU CITY

By Morexette Marie B. Erram and Nestle L. Semilla May 10,2018

They were wearing full face masks and were mum about their identities.

Around a hundred suspicious-looking men were seen roaming around the mountain village of Agsungot in Cebu City, less than a week before the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.

Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak, deputy mayor on police matters, said they already asked the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) to step in and investigate the matter.

The presence of masked men in Barangay Agsungot was reported by one of the village’s kagawad (councilmen), Pedro Damaolao.

In an interview with Cebu Daily News, Damaolao, who is running for the post as barangay captain of Agsungot, claimed he personally saw this group of masked men whom he said were wearing white t-shirts with Cebuano words “WAY KULBA” printed across it. “Way Kulba” translates to “no fear” in English.

“We’ve been trying to ask about their identities but they refused to reply. They did not carry firearms, and have not harmed or harassed anyone. But we’re not discounting the possibility that they may be goons,” said Damaolao in Cebuano.

This prompted Damaolao to ask for help from the Cebu City government.

Tumulak said they have requested the CCPO to verify these reports, and determine whether or not these men are goons. He also urged candidates not to dress up their supporters in a suspicious manner.

“We have informed the police to verify them, and secondly we requested the candidates to refrain from using unidentified men, especially if they wear full face masks, to roam around their barangays. We do not want to create a culture of fear this elections,” explained Tumulak.

Briefing

Yesterday, law enforcers from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) converged for the final security briefing in preparation for the twin polls this Monday, May 14.

But the police have not monitored any threat in Cebu City, and not one of its 80 barangays was included in the areas where security, and peace and order situation are fragile.

Chief Supt. Robert Quenery, the director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), said that the barangays in the region that were declared as Election Watchlist Areas (EWAs) were assigned colors based on the color-coding system that was approved by the Comelec.

The color-coding scheme — green, yellow, orange and red, depending on the seriousness of violence or threat — was approved by the Comelec in consultation with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Comelec-Cebu province supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano explained that areas under green code are classified as generally peaceful.

The yellow code is for areas with history of intense political rivalry, the orange code is for places where private armed groups and organized movements outside the law are present; and red code is for critical areas where all elements in yellow and orange codes are present.

So far, there were no additional areas placed under EWAs aside from the six barangays in Tuburan, said Castillano.

The six barangays in Tuburan town, 88 kilometers northwest of Cebu City, that were declared as EWAs were Putat, Carmelo, Mag-atubang, Sumon, Monte Alegre and Gaang.

PRO-7 classified Barangays Monte Alegre and Sumon under orange code due to sightings of private armed groups and rebels, while the remaining four – Carmelo, Putat, Mag-atubang, and Gaang – were placed under yellow code because of intense political rivalry.

More green

Although the region has 129 barangays that were declared as EWAs, Quenery said that none of these barangays are under the red code.

“Mas marami pa rin tayong (under the) green code. Walang tayong code red. Meron lang tayong mga orange and yellow (We have more areas that are under the green code. We do not have any areas in the region under the code red. What we have are those areas under orange and yellow code),” Quenery said.

In Bohol, 23 villages are under the orange code and 10 villages are put under the yellow code.

In Negros Oriental, on the other hand, all 90 barangays declared as EWAs were put under the orange code because of the presence of New People’s Army (NPA).

Like Cebu City, all barangays in Siquijor are placed under green code.

The return of the masked men

Agsungot, however, did not appear in the areas being watched by the law enforcement authorities and by the Comelec.

Agsungot, a rural village with a population of not more than 3,000, is located 19 kilometers north of downtown Cebu City.

Damaolao said the presence of the masked men in their barangay was first reported during the May 2016 elections but at that time, there were only a few of them roaming around.

“We reported it to the police but no action was done, and they were gone right after the elections. But we did not expect them to return last Wednesday (May 9), and this time there’s more of them,” he added.

But as of press time, Damaolao said barangay officials in Agsungot have not received any complaint of harassment being done by the suspicious visitors in their area.

“It’s just that our residents here are intimidated because they’re hiding their faces. Some of them already complained on being afraid to vote this Monday. This is why it’s already alarming even if they don’t carry weapons,” he explained.

CDN tried to reach incumbent Agsungot Barangay Captain Noli Anne Alcover but any attempts were futile.

Other threats

On the other hand, Tumulak revealed they also received reports of several candidates in urban barangays of Cebu City who reported that they received death threats through text messages sent by anonymous senders.

Tumulak said Jojo Quijano and Maria Yvonne Feliciano, both running for barangay chairperson in Calamba, requested the assistance of the Cebu City government after each of them received death threats last week.

Quijano is affiliated with Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) while Feliciano, who is the incumbent Calamba barangay captain, belongs to the opposition Barug Team Rama party.

Tumulak added that Tony Conahap, who is running for barangay captain in Carreta, and his lineup for village council did not push through with an open forum they planned in several sitios in their village last Wednesday after all of them received death threats from anonymous texters.

“We have forwarded this matter to the police to verify these claims. We also requested them to provide visibility, and regularly patrol these areas,” he said.

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