AFTER learning that the intense political rivalry in her town has turned off investors and tourists, reelectionist San Fernando Mayor Lakambini “Neneth” Reluya has taken steps to improve the peace and order situation there.

These include an executive order that she will draft that temporarily bans the wearing of face masks on the streets until June 30 following reports that residents have seen armed men in masks roaming around the town since the campaign period began.

During a meeting with her town’s Peace and Order Council on Tuesday, April 23, Reluya said the heated rivalry between her and mayoral candidate Ruben Feliciano has taken its toll on the town’s residents and establishments.

Filomeno Leyson, the town’s Purok president and a Reluya supporter, said he received numerous threats, particularly from Feliciano’s group, that he would die if he didn’t leave the town.

Leyson said he already reported the matter to the police but they don’t seem to be doing anything about it.

He said some residents are losing confidence in the local police for their failure to solve the killings of public officials earlier this year.

“Scared” investors, tourists

Aside from Leyson, at least 100 of the mayor’s supporters in San Fernando’s 21 barangays have also reportedly received threats from Feliciano’s group.

The mayor also received reports that armed men were seen accompanying opposition candidates during their sorties.

Members of the town’s business sector have also claimed that the rash of violence has scared away potential investors and tourists.

During the meeting, Violy Musngi, a member of San Fernando’s Chamber of Commerce, said owners of the cement manufacturing firm in South Poblacion have not visited the plant since the killings began. They prefer to conduct business in their office in Cebu City until the tension between the two political groups in the town subsides, she said.

Mary Jane Cebrian, a representative of one of the town’s resorts, said local resorts have received fewer visitors even though it’s peak tourist season. The number has dropped by around 40 percent, she pointed out. “They often ask if it’s really safe to stay in San Fernando,” Cebrian said.

Since January, four public officials have been gunned down by unknown assailants.

They were the mayor’s husband, Panadtaran Barangay Captain and Association of Barangay Councils President Ricardo Reluya Jr.; his predecessor and Magsico Barangay Captain Johnny Arriesgado; and Municipal Councilors Reneboy Dacalos and Alfonso Donaire IV.

Except for Reluya, Arriesgado, Dacalos and Donaire were reportedly murdered due to their alleged drug links.

Cebrian said that before Feliciano came into the picture, San Fernando was starting to attract tourists after the current administration introduced new tourist sites.

Reluya said she was afraid the political violence would leave an indelible mark on the town.

Police assurance

“If we will be known for this scenario, who will be interested to put up a business here or just to visit here? Nobody will come if this continues,” Reluya said.

Feliciano, in a separate interview, denied allegations made by Reluya’s group.

The businessman from Mindanao said he did not bring armed goons to his sorties, adding that it was Reluya’s supporters who harassed his supporters.

Instead of blaming him for the town’s woes, he said Reluya should focus on improving the town’s illegal drug situation, which he described as “bleak.”

“Ako pa niya, musurrender nalang gyud (If I were her, I’d give up). She has no moral ascendancy because she is a drug protector,” Feliciano added.

Last month, Reluya said she would file libel charges against Feliciano for linking her to illegal drugs.

Meanwhile, Police Major Lymel Pasquin, San Fernando police chief, told those who have been receiving threats to report the matter to their station for recording purposes.

Pasquin assured them that his office would charge those who issued grave threats.

As to the presence of armed men, Pasquin vowed to increase their checkpoints and patrols, particularly in the mountain barangays.

Although he admits he only has 32 personnel in the station, Pasquin said he will maximize them to ensure that police visibility will be felt in every area in the town.

If the mayor’s executive order against mask wearing is approved within the week, they will be willing to help the Municipal Government implement it, Pasquin also said.