Cebu City's Osmeña defends record fighting drugs, crime

CEBU CITY, Philippines – While in the United States for a medical check-up, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña responded to a memorandum by the National Police Commission, which revoked his operational supervision over the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).

"You mean they're revoking something I never had in the first place?" Osmeña said in a statement sent via Facebook Messenger. "Being denied the chance to choose someone to work with is a violation of the Local Government Code."

On July 4, regional and local police in Cebu 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 CCPO Director Benjamin Santos.

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

According to a report in Sun.Star Cebu, Dela Rosa told Osmeña in a public address in Cebu City: "Pasensiya na, sir, kung nahiubos ka nga gipangtanggal namo ang imohang city director [ug] ang imong mga pulis nga na-identify gyud sa illegal drug trade." (I’m sorry, sir, if you felt slighted that we removed your city director and your police officers who were identified in the drug trade.)

Osmeña replied the following day: "Who cares? Sila na lang magbuot." (Let them handle everything.)

He emphasized that he was not confident in Santos' replacement, former Pasay City Chief Joel Doria. The Close Up Forever Summer tragedy, where 5 party goers died after taking MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) and a combination of other drugs, happened in his watch.

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."

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.

Before Osmeña was even sworn in, Rowen “Yawa” Secretaria and Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz, persons described as top drug lords by local police, were killed in police operations. Another accused top drug lord, Alvaro “Barok” Alvaro, was arrested and is being held at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC).

On the issue of removing allowances and recalling police firearms and vehicles, Osmeña said: "I would like to remind them that the city is still paying the police incentive allowances as well as the BJMP's (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology). The police still have 50 vehicles that are owned by the city. Many of the firearms that were recalled are not functional so they are now being repaired so they can be returned in working condition."

He added, "The city is also putting up a drug rehab center in Labangon so the police have somewhere to put 'surrenderees.'"

While 20,000 suspected drug users and pushers have surrendered in Cebu City, there is only one public rehabilitation facility in the entire province. (READ: Cebu private hospitals tapped to treat drug suspects)

Osmeña added that he visited a emergency dispatch center in Houston, Texas, because he was "trying to emulate" an American 911 center. "They don't consider that support?"

Deputation revoked

While the power to revoke deputation of local officials is normally reserved for the President under Republic Act 6975 passed in 1990, an amendment to the law passed under Republic Act 8551 in 1998 allows Napolcom to revoke deputation "in consultation with the provincial governor or congresman concerned."

Osmeña's message to Napolcom? "If they want to take over support and pay for all the things I mentioned, they are welcome to. That will allow me to use that money to expand things like the City Scholars program, so even more children can go to college, including those [of] policemen."

Osmeña said he would abide by Napolcom's memorandum, but he said, "I would like to ask Cebuanos [to see] that the resolution is also Napolcom's admission that all peace and order in Cebu City is now their sole responsibility."

The Cebu City mayor, a cancer survivor, will return on August 14 from the US after his doctor's told him he's cancer-free. – 

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.