Osmeña challenges Dela Rosa: Name the 'trusted police colonel'

CEBU CITY, Philippines – "Why won't he say the name?" Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña told reporters in a press conference on Thursday, August 18, when asked about Police Director General Ronald 'Bato' Dela Rosa's accusation that his "trusted colonel" was receiving P200,000 from a drug lord.

In an interview with Bombo Radyo Cebu last Friday, August 12, Dela Rosa said, "Tua na sa ARMM (Autonomous Region of Mulsim Mindanao), gilabay nako ang pulis (colonel) nga sinaligan ni Mayor Tomas Osmeña (I sent Mayor Tomas Osmeña's trusted colonel to the ARMM)."

But Dela Rosa would not give the name of the police colonel he was referring to..

"Because he said he assigned him in ARMM, so he should know who the guy is because he assigned him there," Osmeña said.

Dela Rosa said that this "trusted colonel" was receiving "P200,000 a week" in protection money from suspected top Cebu drug lord Franz Sabalones, the brother of San Fernando Vice Mayor Fralz Sabalones. (READ: Top Cebu drug lord surrenders to Dela Rosa)

On Sunday, August 6, Fralz' name was among 8 Cebu government officials and police officers who were accused of having links to the drug trade by President Rodrigo Duterte. It was his brother Franz, however, who admitted being involved in the drug trade. (READ: Duterte names officials linked to drugs)

Franz had voluntarily surrendered to Dela Rosa on Monday, August 8.

Were any of the police reporting to Osmeña receiving protection money? "Sabalones wasn't even operating in Cebu City," Osmeña pointed out. Operations against Sabalones would be under the jurisdiction of the San Fernando Municipal Police Department and the Cebu Provincial Police Office. 

Tommy's return 

Fresh from a medical check-up in the United States, Osmeña, a cancer survivor, returned to city hall this week after being cleared by his doctors. But he returns without the power of supervision of the police and without 3 of his police-assigned security guards. 

On Wednesday, August 10, while Osmeña was still in the US, the National Police Commission (Napolcom) issued a memorandum revoking his deputation powers to supervise police in his city, and the ability to choose a police chief.

The Napolcom memorandum read, "Instead of supporting the pronouncement of the Chief Executive, Mayor Tomas Osmeña as local chief executive and deputized representative of the commission in Cebu City decided to withdraw all support to the Cebu City Police Office."

There have not been any cases in recent history where Napolcom had revoked a local official's powers to name his local police chief and supervise the town or city's police force.

On Friday, August 12, PNP Central Visayas' Regional Director Noli Taliño said that Osmeña's 3 security escorts would be moved to Bohol. According to Taliño the escorts were being reassigned because they had "not been approved by dela Rosa."

Motion for reconsideration

Osmeña said that while he would file a motion for reconsideration with Napolcom, it's not necessarily to get re-deputized. "I just have to answer it," Osmeña said.

"Let's make one thing clear, I lost it already. I never had it. You're taking away something that I did not have," he added.

On July 4, regional and local police in Cebu, and across the Philippines, were replaced upon orders from Philippine National Police Director Ronald dela Rosa. This was despite Osmeña's request for more time to work with former Region 7 Director Patrocinio Comendador and Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Benjamin Santos in anti-drug operations.

"He personally told me that he would give them 90 days. I said, 'Okay, that's fair enough,'" Osmeña previously told Rappler. "Then he changed it to 30 [days] without warning. I tried calling him after that. No response."

He also defended his record in fighting crimes and drugs in the city. "As soon as I was elected, I did everything I could to combat drugs in Cebu City," he said.

"Just look at my Facebook posts from May to July. We had buy-busts on a daily basis. We got 9 of the 10 most-wanted pushers in Cebu City, and that's not even including national level personalities like Yawa and Jaguar," Osmeña explained.

The mayor explained why it was important for him to maintain the same chiefs: "People in a team are not like Legos. You cannot swap one for the other and expect the team to remain the same. Human beings, policemen or otherwise, do not work that way."

Napolcom Region 7 Director Homer Cabaral said that Osmeña would have to ask President Rodrigo Duterte himself to reinstate deputation over the CCPO.

Axe to grind?

"Let me tell you something about Cabaral. His wife ran for Barangay Captain in Duljo Fatima and I did not support her," Osmeña said.

Reporters asked Osmeña if Cabaral had an axe to grind with Osmeña. "Well, I'm just questioning it," the mayor responded.

He added, "And why didn't he do anything to capture Jaguar?" Osmeña was referring to Jeffrey "Jaguar" Diaz, a suspected top drug lord who lived in the same barangay as Cabaral. Diaz was killed in a police operation in Metro Manila last June.(READ: Cebu top drug lord killed in Las Piñas

"He's the head of Napolcom in Region 7, he's lived there for over 10 years, Jaguar has lived there for over 10 years. I question his motivations," Osmeña said.

Rappler called and texted Cabaral for a response to Osmeña's statements, but has not yet received a response as of publishing time.

'Unfair'

"As far as I'm concerned, all my commanders with me did a better job than any other city in the Philippines," Osmeña said. "I challenge them to show another city that did a better job. Unfair kaayo na (It's unfair)," he added.

He also clarified the issues Napolcom used as a basis to revoke his police deputation.

On not giving incentives and allowances to new police officers, he said: "Why would you give a reward to a new police officer? He's new, he didn't do anything. Because I don't give him a reward, I'll be punished?"

He added, "I'm challenging them to find one new police officer who got a reward anywhere in the Philippines. You're defying logic."

On not releasing police cars, Osmeña said, "is that a crime?"

He further explained: "This is my logic. If they say, 'Mayor Osmeña, give me your cell phone', and I don't give it, then they can punish me?" He added, "They're not the owners of it."

While the memorandum criticized Osmeña for "withdrawing support" of the police, Osmeña said that "not releasing" something they never had was different from "withdrawing."

Osmeña also said he had no plans of asking for his security escorts again. He said, "I really pity them [the police escorts]. If I fight with the police again, they will send them to Tawi Tawi? Luoy gyud (it's a pity)." – Rappler.com

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.

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