PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde said there is no need to reshuffle officers in Cebu City amid the growing tension between the local police chief and the mayor as the problem lies not with the police, but probably with the mayor.
“I’m always in close coordination with the regional director (RD) there. Wala naman silang problema. Even the PNP wala namang problema baka ‘yung mayor ang may problema. ‘Yun ang sinasabi ng ating RD but with the PNP, wala naming kaming problema (The PNP does not have the problem. It's probably the mayor who has a problem. That was what the RD told me),” he told reporters in Manila.
He did not mention names, but he was clearly referring to Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who has been engaged in a word war with Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Royina Garma.
Albayalde said Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Debold Sinas has not made any recommendation to remove Garma and reshuffle the officers in Cebu.
“As of this time, walang recommendation ang Regional Director (RD) doon at wala rin siyang nakikita na kailangan tanggalin itong si (the regional director has not made any recommendation to reorganize. He does not also see any reason to remove) Colonel Garma,” he said.
Albayalde maintained that the PNP remains apolitical and non-partisan.
“Because, remember, we are apolitical. Our mission is to ensure safe and peaceful elections. Perhaps the mayor should just tell the PNP or the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) whatever issue he has with the police. We have not received reports of meddling from the regional director,” he added in Tagalog.
Albayalde said they always verify allegations made against their men and, so far, he has not received any derogatory reports against Garma.
He said Garma was not the personal choice of Osmeña for the said post after he was stripped of police powers following his order to withdraw support for the local police.
“Accusations are made, especially when the police chief is not the mayor's choice. Let's just be fair,” Albayalde said in Tagalog.
The PNP chief also dismissed the statement of former PNP chief now Sen. Panfilo Lacson that Cebu City is a case of the PNP dipping its fingers in partisan politics.
“I really don’t know if they are really dipping their hands in partisan politics. Remember, we have a hard rule there on meddling with politics in the different municipalities or local politics. The PNP has never been allowed to dip its finger in politics,” said Albayalde.
“In fact, We have the CITF (Counter Intelligence Task Force) and the Red teams in different provinces, which determine whether the local police are partial to anybody and if they are doing their duties like conducting checkpoints,” he said in Tagalog.
Despite this, Osmeña last Tuesday, May 7, asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Manila to place Cebu under its control during the elections on Monday, May 13 if the PNP cannot solve the harassment problem and other crimes in the city.
Speaking before the 888 News Forum at Marco Polo Plaza, Osmeña did not say whether the Comelec has responded to his request.
He said there was no police harassment in past elections not unlike now when police can beat, arrest, shoot and even enter anyone's house without a search warrant.
Osmeña said he is the only mayor in the country who is heavily watched because wherever he goes, the police put up a checkpoint.
During the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan's (BOPK) miting de avance last Sunday, May 5, the mayor said the PNP tried to discourage his supporters from attending by putting up 15 checkpoints around the venue.
He said he was happy that his supporters did not succumb to the pressure and an estimated 20,000 people showed up.
“I think most of the policemen are okay. It’s only Sinas of the PRO 7 and Garma who are responsible for all these crimes against the people,” Osmeña said.
“It’s not my future that is at stake here, but the future of Cebu. They (Sinas and Garma) want us to be cowed in fear. That’s a big step towards dictatorship, towards a revolutionary government.” Osmeña said.
“Some people say this will last only until election. I don’t think so. This is a big business for them. They are testing the people of Cebu to see whether you continue to be indifferent. This will go beyond the election. I hope the people can withstand this,” he said.
“Garma is the most influential policewoman in the Philippines. She is very influential. Let me tell you that even the (PNP) generals are taking orders from her. And this puzzles me. And now, I’ve heard that she is being groomed as the next chief of PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office). To me, if we connect all the dots, we can see what’s going on,” Osmeña said.
When asked about about getting caught on camera gambling and that Garma reported the matter to President Rodrigo Duterte, the mayor said he will only answer in a proper forum.
Garma, for her part, said she did not report the mayor's criticisms to the President.
The police official and the President met last Monday, May 6, in Malacañang.
Garma said she introduced to Duterte a female police official who will be the President's new aide-de-camp. Their conversation did not last long as the President was on his way to a Cabinet meeting.
"Honestly, it (the meeting) had nothing to do with our mayor... andaming nag-speculate (several persons were speculating)," she said.
But had Duterte asked her about the mayor, she would have divulged Osmeña's attacks against her and the local police.
She promised CCPO will not take sides in local politics, saying their main duty is secure the midterm elections.
Osmeña accused CCPO of harassing his political allies. But Garma denied this, saying they wouldn't allow themselves to get involved in partisan politics.
According to Garma, several police officers reported to her that Osmeña used CCPO personnel, including the Special Weapons and Tactics team, to go after his rivals during the 2013 midterm elections.
"I will not allow it this time. That's why I should always know all the moves of my personnel," she said.
Meanwhile, the CCPO announced it would conduct checkpoints during the miting de avance of Barug PDP-Laban in Barangay San Nicolas on Wednesday, May 8.
This is to show CCPO is non-partisan, Garma said.
Garma drew flak from Osmeña when CCPO conducted checkpoints during the BOPK's political rally last Sunday.
Garma said she told a police station chief to check the venue of Barug PDP-Laban's activity.
The party's headliners are Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and former mayor Michael Rama who are running for mayor and vice mayor, respectively, against the reelectionist Osmeña and his running mate de los Santos.
Osmeña had accused CCPO of acting as goons for the opposition, which Garma denied.
Comelec does not allow the police to provide close-in security to politicians, but it allows them to conduct checkpoints.
Garma said the aim of checkpoints is to prevent criminals from disrupting political events.
She said they will put up checkpoints in all the miting de avance's entry and exit points and near the venue. (SunStar Philippines, EOB, AYB of SuperBalita Cebu, KAL)