Mayor ‘angry’ that no cop was near Magellan’s Cross-A A +A
Saturday, September 29, 2012
CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama wants the Tourist Police Unit (TPU) of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) to explain why they failed to stop a man from setting himself on fire in front of the Magellan’s Cross last Thursday.
The mayor wanted to know if there were policemen deployed in the vicinity.
A police official said personnel are normally deployed in the area but there were none at the time when Exequiel Geneston, 77, set himself on fire.
Geneston was brought to the Cebu City Medical Center, where he may have to stay for weeks as he is still unconscious.
The incident angered Mayor Rama.
“Naa dapat police diha magsuroy-suroy. Usahay makakita man ko nga naa, usahay pod wala, mao nang gusto ko makabalo if naa’y police that time (There should be a policeman patrolling the area. Sometimes I see a policeman, sometimes there is none, so I want to know if there was a policeman at that time),” Rama said.
If there was none, Rama said he we would recommend for the transfer of the current TPU head. He would also ask CCPO Director Ramon Melvin Buenafe to justify such lapse.
“Because I have never been remiss in reminding them (CCPO and TPU) that police personnel should be deployed in the area kay daghan mang turista diha (there are many tourists there),” he added.
In a separate interview, TPU Officer-in-Charge Bernard Villarin said there were no police personnel deployed at Magellan’s Cross when Geneston poured gasoline on himself and lit a lighter around 7 a.m. last Thursday.
Villarin said the police personnel are only stationed around the area from 8 a.m. when local and foreign tourists usually arrive until 8 p.m. when the influx of tourists have subsided.
“That time a policeman arrived, but by that time, it was too late,” he said.
Villarin even added that it was his police personnel who called and informed CCPO’s mobile patrol group (MPG) about the incident. The MPG then called the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation.
At TPU, Villarin said there are four police officers manning the Magellan’s Cross. Two police officers are deployed at Casa Gorordo, two at Fort San Pedro, and four at Basilica del Sto. Niño.
The victim’s daughter, Anne, 44, told Sun.Star Cebu that before the incident, she accompanied Exequiel in the North Reclamation Area as he wanted to see his friend.
After that, she went home, while Exequiel was left in the area.
Anne said Exequiel was a barangay councilor in Lorega San Miguel a few years ago.
“My father told me to go home. So I went home and he was left there,” Anne said in a phone interview with Sun.Star Cebu.
She said Exequiel told her that after seeing his friend, he is planning to go to Bohol for a personal reason.
Next thing she knew, a barangay tanod informed them that his father was in the hospital.
She said she could not find any reason why his father set himself on fire.
“He doesn’t go to the basilica often, only when he has money and has a companion,” said Anne.
She added that his father is always accompanied by any member of their family as he is already half blind.
“I was surprised how he got there because he can hardly see,” she explained.
Anne said his father’s head sustained the most burns and they were told by the doctor that they may have to stay in the hospital for weeks.
Candle vendor Marjorie Salbi, 36, said she saw Exequiel praying inside the kiosk that houses the Magellan’s Cross, just in front of the Cebu City Hall at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
She was standing outside the kiosk when she saw Exequiel open a bottle of liquid then poured it over his body while praying and lit a lighter.
He did not stop praying even when he was already on fire and he did not cry out in pain, Salbi said.
She said that when Exequiel, wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt, was already burning, he lay down, with his face on the ground, and continued to pray.
A passerby who saw what has happening took off his jacket and used it to try to put out the fire.
The fire spread to the ground when flames reached the bottle of gasoline.
The security guards then called the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation to ask for an ambulance that could bring Exequiel to the hospital.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 29, 2012.