ONE of the big events in last year’s celebration of the Sinulog, aside from the grand parade, was the theft that happened inside the Sinulog Foundation Inc. office.

The grand parade is the culmination of the annual Cebu festival but the theft that took place after the merrymaking was the event that also got highlighted in last year’s celebration.

Cash worth P1.68 million was stolen from the foundation’s office near the grandstand at the Cebu City Sports Center either in the evening after the grand parade or before dawn of the next day, Jan. 16, 2012. The money included grandstand ticket sales and was intended for, among others, the talent fees and honoraria of the Sinulog participants and financial aid to the dance contingents. Persons ransacked the foundation’s office located at the sports center and forced open a steel cabinet where the money was placed.

The foundation usually deposits its money in a bank or places it in an office vault. That time, foundation executive director Ricky Ballesteros explained, the bank was closed for the weekend and the vault was full.

A sports center security guard was charged with qualified theft but the complaint was later dismissed by the city prosecutor’s office for lack of basis. It said the allegations against the guard were “suspicions and insinuations.”

An ugly consequence of the theft was the raising of suspicions of an “inside job” or of an insider, with knowledge of the money’s location, staging the break-in. Even Ballesteros was not spared, as he had to take a lie detector test on request of the police. Ballesteros and another official took the test to clear their names.

The case of the stolen cash has remained unsolved and the foundation had to dig deeper into its pockets to refund the money that was intended for other people. That incident was an embarrassment to the foundation and the police.

To prepare for this year’s Sinulog celebration, the police have announced heightened security at the sports center where the office and grandstand are located. City Hall had asked for the additional security at the foundation’s office and reminded officials to keep money in the bank.

It is worth recalling the Sinulog office break-in of last year so lessons could be made and implemented for the coming celebration.

Preparations should go beyond the performances and religious activities and extend to securing the organizers’ offices. It makes sense then for the PNP to re-focus the detailing of its personnel for the Sinulog.

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To get online updates on the Sinulog 2013, go to the Sinulog micro site on the Sun.Star website at www.sunstar.com.ph. The site is updated as soon as organizers release additional information.

Sinulog activities, novena mass schedules, procession and parade routes, and traffic rerouting plans are posted on the site as they are announced. Grandstand tickets are also available for purchase.

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph)