IN 30 minutes, nine local and foreign tourists lost their wallets to pickpockets in Gen. Maxilom Ave., Fuente Osmeña and Osmeña Blvd. during yesterday’s Sinulog Grand Parade.

Two people – a 16-year-old boy and a 40-year-old mother, were also arrested for allegedly stealing the cellular phones of two female Sinulog spectators. A man was forced out of the Cebu City Sports Complex for selling a VIP-complimentary ticket.

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Ricky Ballesteros, executive director of the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI), confiscated one VIP ticket from Augusto Viñalon.

Viñalon said he is a victim, not a suspect.

Ballesteros said there was something suspicious about Viñalon, who was allegedly giving signals to another person while holding a brown envelope.

Ballesteros said SFI’s covert security at the Abellana Grandstand saw Viñalon with the envelope. The envelope had the label “Sammy Rama.”

The complimentary ticket was reportedly from the Office of Vice Mayor Michael Rama. But Ballesteros said he does not know Sammy.

Viñalon said he bought the ticket from a vendor outside the Cebu City Sports Complex. It originally cost P500 but he haggled for it at P300. But Ballesteros said the ticket is not for sale.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña cancelled street parties and concerts that were supposed to be held in parking lots after the Sinulog Grand Parade last night, saying they are the primary cause of congestion in the roads every Sinulog.

Osmeña exempted the parties at Ayala Center Cebu and SM City parking lots because of the extra parking lots they have.

Osmeña was upset over the approval and issuance of permits to hold the street parties and concerts, and said he would relieve city officials and employees responsible for these.

“That’s not supposed to be allowed. That’s supposed to be approved by me… I don’t know who’s the idiot who got some money from somewhere and issued the permits, so I cancelled everything. Whoever it is, he’s going to be transferred, not just reprimanded, because this is ridiculous. I’ve never approved this before and I don’t know what idiot thinks he has the authority to deviate from the Building Code,” he said yesterday.

Victims

On the pickpocket incidents, first to lodge a report at the Guadalupe Police Station was 70-year-old American Tommy Gene Siler, who lost a passport.

He told PO2 Ariel Dicdican, desk officer, that he was walking along Gen. Maxilom Ave. at 10:40 a.m. when a woman tried to steal his wallet.

Siler managed to tap the hand of the woman and prevented the latter from taking his wallet.

But he found out later that his passport was no longer in his pocket.

At 11:30 a.m., Victor Po Chua, 58, of Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City, told police that a woman took his cellular phone he had placed in a pouch while he was walking near a drugstore along Fuente Osmeña rotunda.

Ten minutes later, 44-year-old Austrian national Hellstern Georg lost his wallet while he was about to cross the street at the corner of F. Ramos and Mango Ave.

The wallet contained P15,000 cash, cards and other important documents.

At noon, an unidentified pickpocket also took the wallet of Fidel S. Torres, 61, who is from Marilao, Bulacan. He was on Osmeña Blvd. when he lost his wallet with P4,500 cash inside and identification cards.

Rolando G. Mercader, 72, of Basak Pardo was taking videos of the Sinulog along Osmeña Blvd. at 12:30 p.m. when a thief took his wallet containing P600 cash, a driver’s license, ATM card and other documents.

At 1 p.m., Canadian Andre Peter Brunger, 51, lost his wallet with P1,500 cash and cards inside.

British national Ronald Platt, 74, temporarily residing in Minglanilla, told police he lost his wallet containing credit cards and important documents.

No violence

Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Patrocinio Comendador said that despite the incidents, yesterday’s Sinulog celebration was generally peaceful.

He said no violent incidents were recorded, like shooting or stabbing.

A brief commotion between two warring fraternities along Gen. Maxilom Ave., was immediately controlled by the police, he said.

As of 6:30 p.m., police listed nine children missing.

Crowd estimate in the carousel route is about 3.5 million to 4 million, Comendador said.

Another problem that authorities addressed yesterday was traffic congestion.

A number of street parties and concerts that had been scheduled in the parking lots of different establishments in the city, including those along General Maxilom Ave., were cancelled at the last minute after the Sinulog Grand Parade last night.

Osmeña blamed the concerts and parties in parking lots for the heavy traffic immediately after the grand parade, since vehicles and people spill out to the streets due to the lack of parking spaces.

“We did not allow the use of the parking lots for any other activity except for parking. We already know that the biggest problem of the Sinulog is traffic. They want to have concerts in the parking lot, then a lot of people will go there, so it compounds the situation because there’s no place to park, so people will double and triple park. I will not allow it,” said Osmeña.

He said he exempted those held at the Ayala Center Cebu and SM City Cebu parking lots because Ayala rented three vacant lots at the Cebu Business Park to be used as additional parking spaces.

SM City, on the other hand, held its concert at its old van-for-hire terminal, and it has already opened a new, multi-level parking building, he said.

Aside from concerts and parties, stalls and booths that block the road and sidewalks were also ordered removed by the mayor.

He said he will fire all the Squatters Prevention Encroachment Elimination Division (Speed) personnel if they cannot clear the sidewalks of stalls in three days.

Threat

“If they don’t clear these things in three days, they’re all fired… My decision is based on my concern for the people because if we allow these things, you know what’s going to happen? The whole city will come to a standstill,” Osmeña warned.

Organizers of the concerts and parties reportedly complained that celebrities from Manila already flew in for the event, which the mayor cancelled.

But Osmeña said the celebrities can just go back to Manila because his number one concern is easing the traffic in the city during the Sinulog, and the welfare of the people of the city. (JTG/JGA/LCR/PDF)