Cebu City’s top police official has challenged Mayor Tomas Osmeña to show proof that vigilantes with police protection are behind the spate of killings in Metro Cebu.
Senior Supt. Royina Garma, the director of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), said it was not fair to make insinuations without concrete evidence.
“Puro kayo baka, baka. Pulos lang insinuations (It’s all ‘maybe, maybe.’ It’s all insinuations). You have to prove and show evidence because it’s not gonna be good for the city in general,” she said in an interview on Friday.
“Wala akong maibigay na comment sa isang comment. May perception ka, iniisip mo yan. Hindi ako pwede magbigay ng iniisip ko kasi iniisip mo yan. Hindi kita mapipigilan,” the feisty policewoman added.
(I cannot comment on a comment. You have a perception. You’re thinking about it. I cannot force you to think the way I think because you already have your own idea. I just can’t stop you.)
Osmeña has openly speculated that the police may be providing protection to professional hitmen operating in Cebu.
On Friday, the mayor lashed out anew at officials of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) and the CCPO for failing to unmask the perpetrators and stop the killings.
“The problem is in the police now. We used to be number one in terms of drug busts in the Philippines. And now, we have these killings,” Osmeña said.
The mayor went on to compare Garma to her predecessor, Senior Supt. Joel Doria, whom the mayor said has kept Cebu City safe.
“We had Doria, (and) we didn’t have problems. We were the best drug enforcement unit in the Philippines,” he said.
“(Now), I give my reports to them (CCPO) every day. But they don’t give their reports to me,” added Osmeña.
Osmeña also slammed the head of the regional police for purportedly twisting facts to protect a policeman and an anti-crime volunteer who were accused of trying to ambush Barangay Tejero Councilman Jessielou Cadungog last Monday.
Cadungog and his bodyguard William Macaslang Jr. are now facing murder charges for the death of PO3 Eugene Calumba, a member of the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Parian Police Station in Cebu City. Macaslang had admitted to shooting Calumba, claiming that the man, whom he did not know was a policeman, was pulling out a gun to shoot Cadungog’s vehicle.
Osmeña became entangled in the case after assisting Cadungog to get protection from the National Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7).
For Osmeña, the problem lies with the police.
“Now this guy comes in, and one person after the other gets killed. The regional police also has a problem. He declared war. (But) mosukol gyud ko (I will really fight back),” he said.
Asked if he was referring to Chief Supt. Debold Sinas, PRO-7 director, Osmeña declined to mention names but said “it’s somewhere up there.”
On his Facebook page, however, Osmeña directly pointed out Sinas’ inability to solve the crimes.
“Despite the almost daily occurrence of killings, the police general of PRO-7 insists that ‘Cebu is safe,’” he said.
“The first step in solving a problem is to admit there is a problem, and if the police refuse to admit that there is a problem, then they are only making it worse. A policeman is caught on CCTV (closed-circuit television) conducting his fifth robbery. Another one is positive for drugs. Yet ‘Cebu is safe and there are no problems with the police.’”
“The police are supposed to protect the people. How are the people supposed to react when it is them and not criminals who are dying, and Gen. Sinas says there’s no problem?”
Cebu Daily News tried but failed to reach Sinas on Friday.
More than his life, Osmeña said the safety of the Cebuanos is his primary concern, referring to a text message he received last week alerting him about an alleged plot to assassinate him and Cadungog.
“If you ask if I’m scared? Of course, I am. And I’m used to it. But I’m not going to run away. My responsibility is the safety of the people of Cebu,” he said. “I’m the father of the city. It is my duty to protect the people of Cebu City. And I don’t care who you are (persons behind the killings).”
The mayor, however, said he has no plan to ask Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde to replace Garma.
“Let’s give her a chance,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cadungog yesterday said he was willing to open his Statements of Asset, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) to public scrutiny amid police allegations that he was on the drug watchlist.
The bulk of his wealth, he said, comes from his being a stockholder and vice chairman of Oriental Port and Allied Services Corporation (Opascor).
“I don’t rely on my honorarium as barangay official,” he said.
Cadungog questioned the claim by Sinas that he was on the drugs list of President Rodrigo Duterte and the police.
“President Duterte already announced the names of barangay officials who are into illegal drugs. I was never mentioned. How come that they (police) now make it appear that I’m on the narco-list?” he asked.
In the meantime, the number of unsolved killings in Cebu continued to rise.
The bodies of two men were found along the Transcentral Highway in Balamban town in western Cebu on Thursday.
SPO3 Benedicto Bobilles, investigator of the Balamban police, said the victims were identified by their relatives as Dennis Lastimoso of Barangay Sambag I and Donald Flores of Barangay Tisa — both from Cebu City.
Who to trust
Families of the other murder victims in Cebu have appealed to authorities to solve the crimes and to arrest the perpetrators.
Among them was the family of Earl Rallos, an officer of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7), who was gunned down by still unknown assailant while driving his car in Barangay Capitol Site in Cebu City last July 27.
In a statement on Thursday, one of Rallos’ children, who asked not to be named, said their family no longer knew which law enforcement unit to trust especially following reports that a policeman tried to ambush Cadungog last Monday.
But Garma, in response, said Rallos’ family was free to go to seek help from another agency.
“Oh well. If they don’t trust us, they can go to another law enforcement agency,” she said.
Garma advised the family not to divert attention from the fact that packs of shabu (crystal meth) were found inside the car of Rallos.
“Why was there shabu inside his car? If we won’t be able to establish the motive behind the killing, we would always go back to that question?” she said.
As this developed, the Commission on the Laity of the Archdiocese of Cebu appealed to the police to solve the spate of killings in Cebu.
Fe Barino, chairperson of the commission, said the murders have become alarming especially that they remain unsolved.
“We are appalled to hear almost every day from the news that people’s lives are taken for different reasons. What makes it worse is that we don’t know what happens to those cases after a while,” she said.
Barino said the police should step up their investigation on the unresolved killings in Cebu to make sure justice is given to the families of the victims.
“It is the role of the police to put an end to all forms of criminality and violence. We plea that all the victims of these killings be given justice and that the investigations will not be silenced as the victims are laid to rest,” she said. /WITH REPORTS FROM CORRESPONDENT FUTCH ANTHONY INSO AND USJ-R JOURNALISM INTERN DELTA DYRECKA LETIGIO
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