CEBU CITY, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The National Police Commission (Napolcom) stripped Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña of his supervision powers over city police.
The Napolcom issued the memorandum on Wednesday, August 10, after Osmeña withdrew support for his city's police.
Osmeña said on Tuesday he did this because the Philippine National Police (PNP) had replaced Cebu City police chief Benjamin Santos without consulting him. Santos was replaced by former Pasay City Police Chief Joel Doria last month.
Acting mayor Edgar Labella received the memorandum. Osmeña is in the United States for a medical check-up and will return August 14.
Osmeña’s decision to withdraw financial support from police was a complete turnaround from Osmeña’s tough anti-crime statements when he was first elected.
One of the first things he did after the elections was to bring police officer Adonis Dumpit, who was granted bail for his 2004 conviction of homicide after shooting dead a robbery suspect, home to Cebu. He is suspected of being behind the deaths of people with criminal records in Cebu City – something he continues to deny – and Osmeña calls him his "poster boy" in the anti-crime campaign.
Dumpit is now working as personal security for Osmeña.
According to a Human Rights Watch report “You can die anytime,” the same report that investigated Duterte’s Davao Death Squad, 202 people were with criminal records were killed vigilante-style from 2004 to 2009, when Osmeña was mayor.
These operations happened during the leadership of PNP Regional Director Patrocinio Comendador and Santos. While Osmeña was still mayor-elect at the time, his wife Margarita served as acting mayor because of a suspension order against former Mayor Mike Rama.
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."
It added: "True to his pronouncement to withdraw his support, Mayor Osmeña had decided to stop giving allowances and rewards to new police officers who were newly assigned in the police office. He likewise ceased in supplying gasoline to police service vehicles and decided not to release the 15 patrol cars and 3 vans that were requested by the former chief of the Cebu City police station."
Following the Napolcom memorandum, PNP Region 7 Director Noli Taliño said his office will have sole operational supervision over Cebu City police.
"I will be the only one supervising the Cebu City police," Taliño told Rappler in a phone interview, adding that city police officers "no longer have to coordinate with the mayor now that Napolcom has removed his deputation."
In a news briefing, Napolcom Central Visayas Director Homer Mariano Cabaral said there were grounds to revoke Osmeña's supervision powers over city police because the PNP determined that his actions – his withdrawal of support for the police – would have a "negative impact on the effectiveness of the peace and order campaign."
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." 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.
In the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 25, President Rodrigo Duterte warned mayors who wouldn't cooperate in the government's war against drugs that they would lose their deputization over police forces should they fail to "perform their supervision functions."
Osmeña had said he was unhappy that the PNP had ignored his request to allow Santos and former Region 7 Director Patricinio Comendador to remain in their posts for 30 more days.
He also had some concerns about Doria because of the Close-Up Forever Summer concert last May in Pasay City. Five people died at the event due to a drug overdose. Doria was Pasay City police chief at that time.
On August 2, Osmeña told Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Region 7 Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz that PDEA agents would be getting the allowances and the mayor's support instead.
“They will all get (their allowances from the city) because they gave us a Cebuano commander,” Osmeña said.
During a visit to Cebu City last month, PNP chief Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa apologized to Osmeña for replacing the local police chiefs without consulting the mayor first.
According to a report in Sun.Star Cebu, Dela Rosa told Osmeña in a public address: “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)."
Drug lord ties?
On Sunday, August 7, Duterte read a list of over 150 mayors, congressman, police officers and other politicians accused of being drug protectors.
In July, Osmeña admitted to being offered money by Jaguar Diaz, although he denied accepting the offer. And he admitted being friends with Peter Lim, but denied any knowledge that Lim was in the drug trade. Lim was named among top Chinese drug lords operating in the Philippines last July. (READ: Is he 'top drug lord' Peter Lim? 9 things about the Cebu businessman)
Lim had been investigated in 1997, 2001 and 2006 for drug trafficking by a congressional inquiry although he had never been charged.
According to a report in Sun.Star Superbalita, reporters asked Osmeña if he thought his links to the two drug personalities would mean he would be included in Duterte’s list of officials who protect drug lords. He replied: “I will have to answer it (the allegations). All my years as mayor I was implicated into everything.”
But it was his rival Mike Rama who was included on the list last Sunday morning. “And guess who he named,” Osmeña said on his Facebook account when Duterte read his list in Davao City. He added, “And Team Rama's social media trolls kept trying to make it look like I was the drug protector?”
Rama had told reporters before he flew to Manila and submitted himself to the PDEA that his inclusion in the list was a “political maneuver.” – Rappler.com