CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña wants the eight Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel fielded in Barangay Ermita to stay in the area for six months and expand their duties.

The mayor said he won’t heed the request of suspended Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo Rupinta to remove the soldiers for fear that their presence will be misinterpreted by residents.

“There is only one problem. He (Rupinta) has no noble intentions as far as I am concerned. And he is not sincere… So the recommendation to remove the soldiers is counterproductive to our thrust,” he said.

As planned, Osmeña said, the soldiers will help secure the barangay and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 7 in its fight against illegal drugs there.

He said PDEA will deputize the soldiers along with SPO1 Adonis Dumpit, who was assigned in the village after Rupinta and the seven barangay councilors were suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas for allegedly failing to cooperate with PDEA in a drug raid last November.

Aside from that, the mayor said he wants the AFP personnel to help the City Government in distributing free maintenance medicines of the residents.

The Long Life Medical Assistance Program, which started last year, provides maintenance medicines for hypertension, diabetes and arthritis, among others.

He also wants the soldiers to be trained in taking blood pressure, to organize sports activities, to look after the children and to learn about the problems of the people.

“We want the residents to accept them. It (program) is nice,” he said.

“Their job is strictly not in policing but just giving an assurance that the people there will be safe. They are not there to run after people. They are there to protect the people,” he said.

The soldiers are staying in Ermita in a house rented by Osmeña.