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The legacy of Kapitan Imok

By: Nestle L. Semilla January 24,2018 - 10:17 PM

Newly-installed Ermita Barangay Councilwoman Efe Rupinta sheds tears as she talks about her murdered father, Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta (picture background), during a press conference with other barangay officials and some leaders of a Carbon Market vendors’ association. (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

As a throng of about 2,000 residents of Barangay Ermita, Cebu City bid their controversial village chief goodbye some two weeks after he was waylaid by motorcycle riding men, a question arose in the minds of many: Was Barangay Captain Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta a good man?

To many Cebuanos, Rupinta was best known for contentious issues surrounding his drug-prone village months prior to his murder.

In January 2017, he and seven of his village councilors were preventively suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas over administrative complaints filed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for their alleged failure to cooperate with PDEA-7 during a drug raid.

Reeling from that suspension, Rupinta later grabbed headlines for a shame campaign targeted at drug users and pushers by attaching tarpaulins on houses they identified as “drug free”.

Rupinta also had a run-in with fish vendors when he ordered those plying their trade on Calderon Street near the Carbon Public Market to leave the area and move to the back of the market.

Rupinta’s anti-drug program was described as discriminatory by the Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR-7) while fish vendors believed that his order to relocate them was brought about by the traders’ refusal to pay P10 market fees to the barangay after Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña ordered the village to stop the collection last October.

Last November 23, the outspoken village chief took bullets in the head and shoulder fired by two assailants, ending his life before he could reach his home at the Eastland Subdivision in Liloan town, northern Cebu. Police arrested Jimmy Largo, a resident of Ermita, barely 24 hours after the killing.

A week later, a second suspect identified as Jordan Gera was also arrested. Both were vendors at the Carbon market and were said to be former “men” of Rupinta.

The suspects denied any involvement in the killing saying that they could not have done such dastardly act to the father of the village.
It was a frame up, said Largo claiming that village politics was the motive behind Rupinta’s death.

By December, police named Winefredo Miro, Rupinta’s arch rival, as the alleged mastermind.

Miro who is Cebu City’s market division operations chief denied the charges filed against him last December 28.


For his loyal supporters, remembering Rupinta who died at 63 years old , brings a lot of pain.

He was a village icon, they said, although his reputation as the head of arguably the most drug-prone barangay in the city also cast a considerable shadow.

“Maayo man g’yud siya nga taw. Ubay-ubay pa sa amoa nga nakauyon ra niya (He was a good man. There are still many of us who liked him),” said 51-year-old Angelina, a vegetable vendor in Carbon.

According to Angelina, Rupinta did a good job in maintaining order in the market even though the village chief was embroiled in disputes.

“Iya ra man sad gibalik ang ubang vendors sa ilahang original nga lugar. Para nako wa ra may kadautan ang iyang gihimo (He brought back the vendors to their original areas. For me, there really was no harm done by Rupinta),” she said.

Of the more than 2,000 people who flocked to Rupinta’s burial last December, most were vendors at the Carbon market.

According to Basan Amora, chairperson of Kamansi Cooperative, a vendors group, this only proves that Rupinta was well-loved by vendors and residents of the village.

“Dili man sila kaguba ni Kap Imok pinaagi sa paghimo og mga kontrobersiya, ila nalang gikutlo and iyang kinabuhi (Since his enemies failed to ruin Captain Rupinta by fabricating controversies, they decided to kill him instead),” Amora said.

Newly-installed Ermita Barangay Captain Mark Rizaldy Miral who took over Rupinta’s post told Cebu Daily News that he could attest to how the slain village chief took good care of Ermita residents.

“Naa man ta’y mga programa nga si Kap Imok gyud ang nagpasiugda. Unya hangtod karon, ato pa gi-carry out (There are programs initiated by Captain Imok that we have carried out until now),” said Miral.

Miral added that like Rupinta, he aims to change public perception that Ermita is drug-infested.

Rupinta’s daughter, Efe, who took her oath last December as new barangay councilwoman vowed to continue the programs of her slain father.

“Duol sa kasing-kasing sa akong amahan ang mga vendors. Sila gyud ang iyang priority dinhi sa barangay (The vendors were close to my father’s heart. They were his priority in the barangay),” said Efe.

“Maninguha sab ta para sa mga youth, aron malikay sila sa mga ginadiling drugas (We will also work for the youth, to keep them away from illegal drugs),” she added.

But while there are those who expressed admiration for the slain barangay captain, some tended to disagree.

“Kana kay nakapitan man na siya makadaghan, daghan gyud ang nisuporta niya. Pero sa akong nakita, wala may kausaban ang barangay (Since he became a captain several times, it only means he had a lot of supporters. But I have not seen any changes in the barangay because there appears to be none),” said a motorcycle driver who refused to be identified.

Another man interviewed by CDN who spoke on condition of anonymity also expressed disgust over the way things were run by Rupinta in the village.

“Sa wa pa sya namatay, nakadesisyon na gyud ko nga dili mobotar pananglit niya (Even before he died, I already decided never to vote for him again),” said the 56-year-old Ermita resident.

In remembering Rupinta, there are residents who talk about his contributions openly; while there are critics who are unlikely to speak up publicly.
More than anything, his death paved the way for more discussion on controversial village affairs and the elements that lurk in the corner.

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TAGS: imok, Legacy, THE

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