Monday, September 24, 2018

Top police official disagrees, but mayor says: City ‘not so safe’

One of 5 killed in 13 hours. Police investigators examine the scene outside the Kalunasan, Cebu City Barangay Hall where a lone gunman killed Councilman Roel Mabano last Tuesday afternoon. (SunStar Photo/Amper Campaña)

FIVE deaths in 13 hours last Tuesday in Cebu City prompted the mayor to call for better security in all barangays and to comment that the city is “not so safe” anymore.

Central Visayas Police Director Debold Sinas disagreed with the assessment, but still asked Cebu City Police Director Royina Garma to create a special investigation group to solve the murder of Barangay Kalunasan Councilor Roel Mabano.

The police also tightened security in the Archbishop’s Palace, while the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) promised to investigate the death of a four-year-old boy who was caught in the crossfire during a drug bust.

READ: Archbishop’s gate closed, but walk-ins welcome

READ: Report violations, Human Rights Watch advocate asks

Commenting on Mabano’s death, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said, “I saw the video. Killers are not scared anymore. They just run up to you. Mura’g hide and seek ba, bang. OK, dagan (run),” he said.

The others who were killed in separate incidents included Jefrey Cañedo, whom the police shot inside the Archbishop’s Palace compound past 10 a.m., and Blader Skyler Abatayo, 4, whom a stray bullet hit while police tried to round up suspects inside an alleged drug den in Barangay Ermita.

Field, not HQ

A lone gunman shot Mabano while the councilman was texting outside the barangay hall past 2 p.m.

Around 11:30 p.m., two security guards shot each other in a gasoline station in Barangay Mabolo.

READ: 2 guards killed in shootout at convenience store

Mayor Osmeña said that Senior Supt. Garma did the right thing in sending more officers from the headquarters out for field work and pledged to support her.

“(The city is) Not so safe. What I’m seeing is that criminals are not afraid. Even in the street level, the snatchers, people got robbed. That’s why I miss (the late SP01 Adonis) Dumpit,” Osmeña said.

But the number of killings isn’t the only gauge of how safe a city is, said Chief Supt. Debold Sinas, who heads the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7.

“I’ll tell you what, go to New York, daghan kaayo didto (there’s a lot of crime there), but they still consider themselves peaceful. It is just a matter of perception,” Sinas said.

“It is still better to live in Cebu City than in Cotabato City, which has very minimum reported incidents. Compared province by province, the most peaceful supposedly is ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) kasi nga maliit ang reported (where the reported crime rate is low), pero ngano wala may gusto mopuyo didto (but how come no one wants to live there)? Because it’s perception. As regional director, I still consider peaceful and good the peace and order situation in Cebu City,” Sinas said.

For their part, Barangay Kalunasan officials vowed to tighten security in their barangay hall by adding surveillance cameras and requesting the police to join barangay tanods during their rounds.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing of our first termer Kagawad Roel Mabano in broad daylight. He was a dedicated public servant even if he was still on his first term as barangay kagawad,” read a portion of the statement Barangay Kalunasan’s officials sent to SunStar Cebu.

‘No safe place’

“There’s no safe place, even in what we considered a secure place. We are seeking justice together with the family of Kagawad Mabano,” the statement added.

Barangay officials assured the residents, though, that they are safe. Mayor Osmeña said that barangay tanods should beef up efforts to secure residents in all villages.

Of last Tuesday’s deaths, that of preschooler Abatayo stood out.

In a signature campaign, Abatayo’s family asked the CHR to investigate the police team who conducted that buy-bust operation in Barangay Ermita that led to the child’s death.

Leo Villarino, CHR 7 chief investigator, said that a CHR team went to Abatayo’s house in Barangay Ermita and interviewed his mother yesterday.

Sinas, for his part, said that particular anti-illegal drug operation was legitimate.

Police investigation

Carbon Police Station Chief John Kareen Escober denied that one of his operatives opened fire at the drug suspects. No one was caught, but police found 24 packs of shabu.

Abatayo’s father told reporters that he believed a police officer had pulled the trigger, after one officer apologized to him for the boy’s death. Escober, though, said they only sympathized with the grieving family.

PRO 7 Chief Sinas also ordered Cebu City Police Chief Garma to investigate Escober and the operatives involved: PO3 Raydale Sardual, PO2 Dennis Steve Estrada, PO1 Ray Van Dadula, and PO1 Wilbert Perez. The Cebu City Police Office has given financial assistance to the Abatayos. (With KAL, JKV)