Tale of two rallies
Thousands of Cebuanos gathered in the heart of downtown Cebu City on Sunday afternoon but for different causes.
A thanksgiving program and Mass organized by the Cebu City government was held at the Plaza Sugbu shortly past 3 p.m. while 600 meters away, a rally-cum-concert to pledge support for the Philippine National Police and for the Duterte administration was spearheaded by the local Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) officials at the Plaza Independencia.
While the City Hall-initiated gathering took a more religious tone and had a smaller in crowd, the PDP-Laban event was festive and became a venue to show solidarity with the local Philippine National Police (PNP) force, complete with police officials joining the event in uniform.
At Plaza Sugbu, members of different community-based organizations and beneficiaries of city programs told their stories and expressed gratitude for the benefits they derived from the city’s projects.
Among them were the homeowners who benefited from the 93-1 land swap deal between Cebu City and the Cebu Provincial government, beneficiaries of the City Hospitalization Assistance and Medicines Program (Champ), former and current grantees of the city’s scholarship program, Muslim communities and motorcycle drivers association.
“Sukad karon, mawala na ang among kahadlok nga mawagtangan mi og kapoy-an lakip na ang among mga anak (From now on, we, including our children, will no longer fear that we will be evicted from our homes),” said Fe Basco, who spoke in behalf of the 93-1 deal beneficiaries.
Also present in the gathering were city officials affiliated with the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) led by Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.
Councilors Margarita Osmeña, Sisinio Andales, Mary Ann de los Santos, Joy Augustus Young, Alvin Arcilla, David Tumulak, and North District Rep. Raul del Mar also graced the event.
At around 5 p.m., Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma presided over the Thanksgiving Mass, where he urged the attendees to use communication for community building rather than for spreading wrong information.
About 3,000 people filled the stretch of Plaza Sugbo during the event, according to Senior Supt. Remus Medina of the Regional Intelligence Division (RID-7), who provided the crowd estimate.
Despite the heavy downpour at the end of Palma’s homily, the throng of people bearing lighted candles stayed until the end of the Mass, with Councilor Osmeña leading the praying of Oratio Imperata that calls for the end of killings in Cebu.
They also sang the Batobalani sa Gugma in gratitude to Señor Santo Niño.
Mum on the police
Despite an earlier pronouncement that he would be answering the issues thrown at him during the gathering, particularly those involving the local police, Osmeña opted not to talk about it.
In his speech, the mayor only thanked the attendees of the thanksgiving program but neither mentioned the issues between him and the police nor the recent pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte against him.
“Daghan kaayong salamat nga daghan kaayo nga mga tawo. Magpasalamat ta sa mga beneficiaries sa 93-1. Magpasalamat ta sa atong provincial government. Mao na ni. Ang inyong damgo nga makabaton og inyong kaugalingong luna, natinuod na gyud,” Osmeña said.
(We would like to thank a number of people. We thank the beneficiaries of 93-1. We thank the provincial government. This is it. Your dream to own your own land has finally come true.)
The mayor also thanked the barangay captains and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officials who supported BOPK bets Franklyn Ong and Jessica Resch in their bids for the presidency of Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) and SK Federation- Cebu City Chapter, respectively.
“Atong tagaan og recognition ang mga kapitan, ilang gi-offer nga P1 million, pero kanunay nga nagpaluyo sila (captains) kanako,” Osmeña added.
(We also recognize the barangay captains who, despite the P1 million offered by the opposition, continued to support me.)
Manifesto of support for PNP
At the Plaza Independencia, meanwhile, the Cebu chapter of PDP-Laban released a manifesto of support for the police during the concert dubbed as Duterte Rocks Cebu.
Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella read the manifesto in front of the crowd that included at least 800 uniformed policemen mostly from the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) and the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).
“I denounce any attempts to demonize the police because it is disrespectful to the memory of the many policemen who died for the cause of peace and order and because it demoralizes our men in uniform,” Labella read the manifesto.
Labella also urged the citizens to help the police in maintaining public safety and security and to treat the police as humans with loved ones and families.
“This event is very symbolic sa makita nato nga ang mga police tua sa luyo sa mga katawhan. Nagpakita lang nga ang citizens labaw gyud sa police sa tanang higayon ug ang police ready gyud mo-protect sa population,” Labella said.
(This event is very symbolic as we see the police are gathered behind the civilians. It shows that the citizens are supreme over the police at all times and that the police are ready to protect the population.)
Senior Supt. Royina Garma, director of the CCPO, said she was grateful for the people’s support for the event.
“Nalipay mi and it’s really inspiring coming from the vice mayor (We are happy and it is inspiring coming from the vice mayor). This is what we really need, to boost the morale. Moral support is the most important,” said Garma.
Garma said the police needed the help and support of civilians in order to maintain peace and order and to continue the fight against illegal drugs.
Garma also clarified that the Duterte Rocks Cebu concert was sponsored by PDP-LaBan and not by the police, amid reports that the police organized the event.
“We cannot afford to organize an event like this. Naghahanap pa nga kami ng tutulong magbigay ng gamit sa pulis. (We are looking for those who can help give us equipment),” said Garma.
Garma estimated that the crowd for the gathering reached about 7,000.
But according to Medina, at least 45,000 people attended the concert at the Plaza Independencia, bearing banners to express support for President Duterte.
Garma added that both the events organized by the city government and the PDP-Laban -Cebu Chapter turned out peaceful.
“Very peaceful yung events (Our two events are very peaceful). May mga nag rally but very manageable (there were rallies but very manageable),” said Garma.
Prominent figures of the PDP-Laban party including Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Francis Tolentino, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino and former Cebu City South District Rep. Tony Cuenco graced the event.
Barangay officials and residents from Sambag I, Inayawan and Kamagayan were also present in the gathering.
Kamagayan Barangay Captain Raquel Avila, who is affiliated with Barug Team Rama, said the people of Kamagayan voluntarily joined the concert to support the police and the President.
“Kami ra gyud ang nianhi, walay nagpugos namo (We came here on our own, nobody forced us),” said Avila.
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