EXPLAINER: Chuck Barandog's clash with Tomas Osmeña in 2019 for alleged election harassment and killings, including murder of 2 tanods and an ex-cop, is recalled after May 1 ambush on the police officer and his wife.

Contributed photos
Contributed photos

CHUCK Barandog was a police major when he led the Cebu City Mobile Force in the run-up to the 2019 elections. Then mayor Tomas Osmeña, who was running for reelection against Edgardo Labella, blamed Barandog and then city police chief Royina Garma for a number of checkpoints that were set up near homes of BOPK stalwarts, including the Osmeña residence in Guadalupe.

An altercation between Osmeña and police highlighted the tension the checkpoints created when on April 28, 2019 a convoy of then BOPK candidate for vice mayor Mary Ann de los Santos was stopped in Barangay Kasambagan and Tomas responded to Mary Ann's call for help.

Osmeña, with de los Santos and most of the BOPK City Council slate, lost in that election. Tomas accused police, particularly Barandog and Garma, of "harassing" their candidates and supporters. Indirectly, they blamed President Rodrigo Duterte -- who verbally thrashed Tomas in public -- for the alleged police hostility, which caused, or contributed to, the BOPK defeat.

WHAT HAPPENED. Barandog was driving a pickup last Sunday night, May 1, at the intersection Pope John Paul II and F. Cabahug Sts. in Barangay Mabolo when two men riding in tandem ambushed the vehicle and shot Chuck. Barandog was apparently the principal target as he was inflicted with 11 gunshot wounds and his wife Yvonne with minor injuries. A police escort, one Sergeant Estipen Padilla, was unharmed. As of this news feed, Barandog was still "in critical condition." Of the wounds, the most serious must be two in the abdomen and two in the groin; the rest were on the left leg, left arm, and the forearm.

The attack was staged barely a week before the elections next Monday, May 9, in which Tomas's wife Margot is the main contender against reelectionist Mayor Mike Rama. Mary Ann de los Santos is running for city councilor, and Barandog's wife -- a former Calamba barangay captain and Cebu City hospital former chief administrator -- is first nominee of the STL party list.

BRUSHES WITH TOMAS. Aside from his accusation that police harassed BOPK in the homestretch of the 2019 campaign, Tomas Osmeña had linked Barandog and Garma to the killing of two barangay police ("tanods") and a party supporter in Barangay Lusaran in February 2019 while police were supposedly serving them warrants of arrest. Media reported that Tomas went to the extent of calling Barandog "a killer cop."

There was bad blood, some people assumed, between then mayor Osmeña and city police top officials. Tomas had asked for a change in the city's police leadership but it happened only after the elections, when Garma retired and was appointed general manager of PCSO (the charity sweepstakes office), where she later asked for the detail of Barandog at her office.

For the checkpoint confrontation, six men charged before the ombudsman Barandog and other police personnel with grave misconduct, grave threats and violation of official-and-employees code of conduct.

Another incident in which the names of Tomas Osmeña and Barandog surfaced together was in the post-election killing of former police officer Delfin Bontuyan of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group. Just after the 2019 election, on May 22, Bontuyan was riding a motorcycle when shot dead on the street across the Mabolo police station.

Osmeña who reportedly rushed to the scene told the media Bontuyan was the father of Christine Claire Bontuyan, a youth leader of SK Talamban, who in a Facebook post reportedly criticized Barandog and Garma for the killings in Lusaran.

COLOR, CONTROVERSY. Fast forward to the May 1, 2022 ambush: Barandog is already police lieutenant colonel (from police major) and reportedly assigned at PNP headquarters in Camp Crame. Barondog, 39, is a graduate of the Philippine National Police Academy, in the "Sansinirangan" class of 2007.

He had already left his detail service at PCSO and his stint as peace adviser at the Central Visayas Peace and Order Council.

Then mayor Labella, as chairman of the regional council, said he wasn't bothered by the controversy swirling around Barandog and thus named him to the peace-adviser post. Baronda was to focus on the drug problem, mostly in Cebu City and other urban centers of Central Visayas, as well as on the insurgency in Negros.

It is not known as to what happened to the complaints against Barandog and other officials and whether any one was prosecuted for the killings in Lusaran and the murder of former police officer Bontuyan whose daughter had criticized the police for the killings.

BARANDOG'S POLITICAL BENT. His wife Yvonne has been into politics, first as barangay captain, and then, in this election, as party-list nominee.

Barandog on September 24, 2021, just before the October deadline for filing certificates of candidacy, teased the public (or was it just Tomas Osmeña?) with an announcement he might run for city mayor. He supported that with a streamer hung at a skywalk at Osmena Blvd. and a Facebook post by a purported supporter endorsing his candidacy.

NO GUARANTEE. Many past assaults on police officers, active or retired, have remained unsolved, including the murder of Sergeant Raymond Zozobrado, a Guihulngan, Negros Oriental cop who survived an attempt on his life in 2018 in Mambaling, Cebu City but didn't in another Cebu ambush on May 29, 2021. Bontuyan's killers have not yet been publicly identified; so are the killers of retired police officer Edmund "Bernie" Junco, who, like Barandog, was riding a pick-up with his wife, in Nasipit, Talamban on September 15, 2021 when killers riding a motorcycle in tandem shot him to death.

Having a police officer as victim, it would seem, does not guarantee quick solution of the crime. But the assault on the Barandog couple is more than any other crime against the police. It's hyper interesting, involving PNP officials who tangled with civilian leaders, which may lead to unraveling some election mysteries that confound the public to this day. Would the 2019 events have anything to do with the 2022 events?


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