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Osmeña and Rama agree: Vigilantism is on the rise

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Nestle L. Semilla, Rene F. Alima August 02,2016 - 12:38 AM



For every four suspected drug pushers killed in Central Visayas from July 1-31, one died in the hands of unknown assailants.

With the body count of drug suspects on the rise, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña and his nemesis, former mayor Michael Rama finally agreed on one thing after years of bickering: the presence of vigilantes in Cebu.

While Rama in a press conference yesterday urged police to stop the operations of a so-called death squad in Cebu, Osmeña for his part said “there is no such thing as a death squad, but there are death squads.”

Figures released on Monday by the Police Regional Office (PRO-7) show that within a month from President Rodrigo Duterte’s assumption, a total of 93 suspected drug personalities had already been killed in the region. Sixty-six of those were gunned down in police operations while 27 were killed by unidentified armed men.

The list still does not include 33-year-old Presco Cabingatan, a habal-habal (motorcycle for rent) driver who was gunned down by police operatives, hours after PRO-7 closed its tally of dead suspects for the month of July, in an alleged shootout in Barangay Buhisan, Cebu City late Sunday evening, July 31.

According to SPO1 Noel Caretero of the Punta Princesa Police Station, they received a call from a concerned citizen regarding the presence of an armed man in the barangay which was then celebrating its fiesta.

Caretero said that when police went to the area, they saw Cabingatan, a suspected drug pusher who was on the watch list of the Punta Princesa Police Station, armed with a homemade .38 revolver.

When Cabingatan noticed the presence of police, he allegedly tried to shoot it out with them, prompting operatives to return fire, killing the suspect. The suspect died from multiple gunshot wounds on his body.

The police account of the incident is strongly denied by the suspect’s live-in partner, Jennifer Abastas, who claimed that Cabingatan did not own a gun.

She also pointed to several signs of an overkill such as slash wounds on Cabingatan’s face and abrasions on his body.

Pobre ra man mi. Wala mi bawot kay ang among kontra gobyerno man. (We’re just poor people. We could not win in a fight against government),” said Abastas in a media interview.

Police, meanwhile, said that two small packs of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) were recovered from Cabingatan.

Like Cabingatan, most casualties in the month of July were petty drug peddlers on the police watch list. All except for one were male.

From July 1-31, no big-time drug lords in the region were killed.



Following timelines

“We have since stepped up our campaign against illegal drugs. We’re not done yet. Expect our policemen to level up our efforts to eliminate illegal drugs,” police regional director Chief Supt. Noli Taliño said in an interview.

“We have a timeline to follow. In three to six months, we must get rid of illegal drugs,” he added.

Taliño said that due to the slay of suspected drug pushers, incidents of murder and homicide have increased; but cases of robbery, theft, and rape have dwindled.

Since July 1, at least 58,536 self-confessed drug users and 4,383 drug pushers surrendered to the police in its Oplan Tokhang throughout the region.

Police arrested 332 persons for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, and confiscated 542.36 grams of shabu worth P6.4 million based on the estimate set by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).

Taliño advised drug pushers to surrender instead of fighting it out with the police.

“They better surrender because we won’t stop hunting them,” said the former Special Action Force chief who assumed PRO-7 chief last July 4.

Taliño maintained that drug pushers who were killed by the police tried to engage operatives in a shootout.

He said it would be better for police operatives to neutralize criminal offenders while defending themselves rather than getting killed.

Earlier, the Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR-7) received an order last July 15 from lawyer Diana de Leon of the Human Rights Protection Office in Manila to conduct a probe on what could be cases of summary executions in Central Visayas.

Leo Villarino, CHR-7 chief investigator, is now looking into at least eight possible cases of rubouts or extrajudicial killings in the region.
Villarino declined to reveal details of these cases but said that all incidents involved alleged shootouts with policemen.

Taliño said they welcome any investigation by the CHR-7.

Meanwhile, in northern Cebu, a suspected drug pusher who refused to surrender in the ongoing police anti-drug campaign, Oplan Tokang (Toktok Hangyo, meaning to knock and persuade), was gunned down by unknown assailants in Barangay Binabag, Consolacion.

The incident is the second for the town of Consolacion perpetrated by motorcycle-riding men wearing masks within a period of just four days.
Dario Achay, 50, died from a single gunshot wound in the head after he was shot by the unidentified armed men as he was on his way to his house, Sunday.

Earlier last Thursday, Ringo Rodrigo, another drug suspect, was shot in Barangay Cansaga, Consolacion by unknown assailants who left a note that said: “traydor sigeg sumbong sa pulis (Traitor, always squealing to police)”.

Rama – Osmeña on vigilantism

In a press conference yesterday, Rama urged the police to stop the operations of a “death squad” in the city.

“Team Rama has always been standing by the rule of law. I’m not in favor of vigilantism. I don’t know with my opponent. I wish it has not been again given a rebirth,” said Rama, referring to the Hunter Team, a group of elite policemen formed by Osmeña during his previous terms as mayor that went after drug suspects.

“The word death squad was famous before in Cebu City and that was hunters team. That was vigilantes,” Rama said.

Meanwhile, Osmeña said that while it is true that there are vigilantes lurking in the city, “There is no such thing as death squad. But there are death squads,” he said.

The mayor said that people nowadays can easily kill even just for P50,000.

“Unsa na’y utok sa tawo uy? (What has happened to the minds of people?) That’s why I call it a very unstable organization. You don’t have to call an organization. Just like in World War II, the Japanese occupation. The guerrillas organized themselves. They don’t need a boss. They just organize themselves, talk to each other,” said Osmeña.

“If only 10% are angry, that’s a lot. That’s fertile ground (for vigilantism),” Osmeña said while he blamed the rise in vigilantism to what he believes is the public’s loss of trust in the police organization.

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TAGS: Cebu, drug dealer, drug pusher, illegal drug, illegal drug trade, illegal drugs, Police Regional Office, PRO, PRO 7, vigilante, vigilante killings

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