How safe is Cebu?
One cannot blame Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat for putting the agency’s best foot forward when she said that Cebu remains a safe destination for tourists despite the recent spate of killings in Metro Cebu.
To substantiate her assertion, Puyat cited numbers showing that tourist arrivals went up by 27.7 percent in Cebu. More are expected to arrive especially as the holidays and the Sinulog approach due to the recent opening of the more spacious second terminal of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
More likely the increase in tourist arrivals had to do with the temporary closure of Boracay Island which will soon be reopened under new management rules but then who’s complaining aside from the island’s stakeholders and those who earn their income from tourist arrivals in that part of the country?
Certainly not the Cebu business community and local governments who will be among the first to welcome any increase in tourist arrivals since it means more revenue for them.
In fact it was last April when Numbeo, an online database that ranks the living conditions of cities worldwide, placed Cebu City as the eighth safest city in Southeast Asia. But all of that changed in the past few months.
When these same local officials and top business leaders voice concern on the spate of killings that occurred right in their backyard — when even officers of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) such as Von Rian Tecson of Carcar City and Asst. Operations Officer Earl Rallos were dispatched with such ease and impunity in August 8 and July 27 this year respectively — no amount of press releases and goodwill visits can immediately erase these anxieties.
It falls squarely on law enforcement agencies to set things right and the police, unfairly or not, are at the forefront of law enforcement. Thus, when survivors of what is being suspected as a summary execution of criminal suspects initially claimed that police were allegedly responsible for the killings, it only intensified public anxiety and fears that law enforcers are taking the law into their own hands.
It remains to be seen if one of these survivors, habal-habal (motorcycle-for-hire) driver Antonio Belande, can remain safe after he was escorted out by police upon his discharge at the Cebu City Medical Center.
Police officials like Chief Supt. Debold Sinas, Police Regional Office (PRO-7) chief and Senior Supt. Royina Garma, Cebu City police chief, can deny until they’re blue in the face that the police have zero involvement in these killings.
But when incidents of people being killed in the crossfire and ski-mask wearing assailants gun down people in broad daylight with no fear of reprisal occur on a nearly regular basis, there is much to fear for one’s safety for both residents and visitors alike.
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