DESPITE having his police operational powers withdrawn last week, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña will continue his peace and order efforts by creating a neighborhood watch in the city’s barangays.
In a Facebook post dated Aug. 14, Osmeña said the project will recruit any willing volunteer, including retired barangay police personnel (tanods), policemen, soldiers and private citizens.
“In a way, volunteers local to the area can be even more effective than traditional methods of law enforcement because they are native to the territory. They know who the badlongons (scalawags) are, where the danger areas lie, etc.,” he said.
“They will also be very motivated, because instead of just being assigned there from somewhere else, they have a personal stake as they are taking care of the areas where their own families live,” he added.
He, however, clarified that the volunteer personnel will not have arresting powers as the project’s presence alone can prevent most crime.
The project is set to begin in areas where call center agents are residing.
Osmeña said he will call for a meeting with BPO (business process outsourcing) managements to ask assistance in mapping out where their employees live and to directly get from them their primary and specific concerns on safety.
In the City Government’s meeting last month with the World Bank during the Official Development Assistance program, the latter suggested the provision of security in the homes of the city’s call center agents as they are contributing to its economic growth.
It was learned that most of the 120,000 call center workers in the city reside in informal settlements in urban poor communities in Barangays Barrio Luz, Apas, Kamputhaw and Lahug.
“This will be good for both our citizens and the economy because many people are unwilling to take on a call center job because of safety concerns. By making it safer, more people will have the opportunity to earn more. A higher quality pool of employees will come about naturally,” Osmeña said.
He said the increase in both quality and quantity of employment might encourage BPO’s to expand their investments in the city.
For his part, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella expressed support for Osmeña’s proposal, saying criminality, especially the problem on illegal drugs, has transformed into a social problem that needs the active involvement of all community members.
“In other words, this is not just a problem of the police, this is a problem of society. It is like a social cancer that has penetrated all elements of society, from the elite down to the less fortunate,” he said.
He said that as long as the project is properly coordinated, there would be no problem between the city and the police.
“There has to be a mutual understanding among players, so what’s important is the effective implementation by consultation. After all, we have all the best intentions, but we just differ in means,” Labella said.
As for Camp Crame’s order to recall the mayor’s police escorts, his wife, City Councilor Margarita “Margot” Osmeña, said she is fine with it.
“It is not part of our life anyway, our ordinary life. It is nothing. It is not a decoration that they took away,” she said.
She said her husband was not the mayor of the city for the past six years and he never had a police escort.
Last Aug. 9, PRO 7 relieved Mayor Osmeña’s police escorts and transferred them to the Bohol Police Provincial Office, including SPO1 Adonis Dumpit.
Margot said the mayor did not ask for police escorts in the first place. The three policemen were just the same officials assigned to him during his previous terms.
With all that is happening, she said, many private citizens volunteered to escort the mayor but her husband declined.
Margot said she is saddened by the transfer of the police officers.
“What is that? A punishment? Take them out but you don’t have to punish them. They are just doing their job,” she said.
Asked if she is not worried considering that her husband have been receiving death threats, Margot said she doesn’t want it to control their lives.