GARMA: CEBU STILL PEACEFUL
Feisty official insists killings are random and not connected; Tomas mulls reward system for those who can provide evidence that would pin perpetrators
What series of killings?”
Senior Supt. Royina Garma, the director of the Cebu City Police Office, on Tuesday brushed aside reports that violence has reigned over the city, saying the killings were isolated and should not alarm the public.
She also lashed out at those who made it appear that vigilantes with police protection are operating in the Queen City of the South.
“If you say there’s a series of killings, there should be a pattern. But the way we see it, there’s no pattern in what we have now in the city,” the feisty police official said.
“It’s more of a random killing,” she added.
Garma called on Cebuanos, including businessmen and tourists, to remain calm and to give investigators enough time to solve the killings.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, in an interview, said many people have been afraid following the number of murders in the metropolis.
“While it appears that it is a peaceful city, the fact that people, including the common tao or our leaders are afraid, is already a sign that we should work for peace,” he said.
Until proven that some policemen are involved in the killings, the 68-year-old prelate appealed to the public to give uniformed men the chance to prove that they are worthy of trust.
“Just like any other part of society, we know there are many in the ranks that are good. But we also do not discount the possibility that there are some who may not be living up to their calling. In principle, we always try to put our trust in authorities unless proven otherwise,” Palma said.
In a tally made by Cebu Daily News, at least 112 persons were killed in shooting incidents in Cebu over the last six months.
Of this, 92 individuals were gunned down by still unknown assailants — many of whom were masked men on board motorcycles — while the rest of the fatalities perished during police operations from February to August 2, 2018, or a total of 183 days.
Garma said the successive killings in Metro Cebu and even in other parts of the country should not be interpreted as something sanctioned by the state.
“Our policemen are not involved in extrajudicial killings. Whoever does that are hoodlums, not policemen. Yes, there are police units that focus on fighting illegal drugs. But there are no units which were organized to kill people. We don’t have that,” she said.
“Let us stop speculating. I appeal to people, especially to our leaders, to not make the city appear as if it’s a dangerous place. All they have are perceptions. And so stop conditioning people’s minds,” she added without mentioning names.
Garma said investigators are doing their best to unmask the perpetrators.
However, the unavailability of witnesses, she said, has been a hindrance to their investigations.
“I am calling on those who witnessed crimes to please come forward and help us. Crimes thrive in places where people are afraid. We need the support of the community since the police could not just fabricate evidence,” she said.
In the meantime, Garma said they are doing their best to prevent any killings by enhancing police visibility in key areas.
“We deploy more policemen on the streets so people will feel safe. Cebu remains peaceful. Just support your policemen,” she said.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña urged car owners to install dashcams on their vehicles and to present footages of any crimes to authorities.
“You will contribute greatly to peace and order. I will even look for the budget to subsidize the installation for anyone interested if that helps. Anyone who has footage of a crime that leads to charges being filed will be rewarded (anonymously, of course),” he said.
“In addition, I am considering putting passenger-facing CCTVs (closed-circuit television) in all Cebu City jeepneys,” he added.
Solve the killings
Meanwhile, the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA)-Cebu Chapter joined calls for the police and local government units to solve the killings.
“Any news on killings has a big effect on business … If these killings are not solved, they become a bad reputation for Cebu,” said PRA-Cebu President Robert Go in a statement sent to CDN.
Go said they are concerned over the possibility that their counterparts in Metro Manila will no longer expand their operations to Cebu due to the spate of killings.
He said they have been receiving concerns from their members in PRA–Manila, as well as those from the Philippine Amalgated Supermarkets Association, about the peace and order situation in Cebu.
“Fear will prevent them from expanding in Cebu, especially those from Manila. Foreign investors are even more scared as this is not an ordinary thing for them,” Go explained.
Chinese in Cebu are safe
Consul General Shi Yong of the People’s Republic of China said he’s optimistic that authorities will be able to address the killings in Cebu.
“I hope it will not affect the tourism in Cebu,” he said.
Yong and other members of the Chinese Consulate in Cebu were in Oslob town, south Cebu, on Tuesday to turnover an ambulance to the Municipality of Oslob.
Amid the killings, he assured Chinese tourists that they are safe in Cebu.
“In fact, now we have a very good communication with the regional police department and there has not been any attack to any Chinese tourists,” said Yong. /with reports from USJ-R Intern Delta Dyrecka Letigio and Morexette Marie B. Erram
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