A friend in law enforcement says the Duterte Administration’s war on illegal drugs has caused a number of areas in the country to experience a violent sort of dope sickness.
Unlike the kind of dope sickness that drug addicts go through when they are starved of their drug of choice, the dope sickness he refers to plays out more violently. Some episodes result in deaths where either the drug traffickers decide to shoot it out with law enforcement or where criminal syndicates purge their ranks, silencing those they suspect might squeal.
In other instances, the deaths are those of local government officials named in the administration’s illegal drugs watchlist. In 2016 came the deaths of Rolando Espinosa Sr, the mayor of Albuera, Leyte, and Samsudin Dimaukom, the mayor of the southern town of Saudi Ampatuan. Then in 2017, came the death of Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog.
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This year, deaths of other local officials became headline news but official government news sources discounted the possibility of these being linked to the anti illegal drugs war.
In the list of local officials to be killed were Tawi-Tawi Vice Mayor Al Rashid Mohammad, Tanauan City mayor Antonio Halili, Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija mayor Ferdinand Bote, and Trece Martires vice mayor Alex Lubigan last July 7.
It is against this backdrop that detractors of the Duterte administration might be expected to rally to the side ofCebu city Mayor Tommy Osmeña after was seen on posting on Facebook claiming that he believed his life was in danger.
But, so far, it seems the usual rallying crowd hasn’t turned up in the streets of Cebu City. Don’t they care about Mayor Tommy?
A news report says that Osmeña posted a message with a number of missing words saying that if “something happened” to him, he would reveal the missing words. His post reads:
“(Redacted) I’m a concerned (redacted) here in PRO7. Please advise the mayor to be extra careful. There are plans to eliminate him-Cadungog and Coun Dave Tumulak. There is a conspiracy to link them to drugs just tell them to please be careful alway(s). The group of PO3 (Eugene) Calumba are behind this and top officials of PRO7 and CCPO are sactioning (sic) this,”
If Osmeña seriously thinks his life is in danger, then he should seriously seek protection. But where would he go to for protection?
Two days later, he was seen in an interview accusing Cebu City police chief Senior Superintendent Royina Garma and Central Visayas top cop Chief Superintendent Debold Sinas of being behind killings in his city. However, when pressed repeatedly as to why he thought Garma and Sinas were behind the killings, Osmeña couldn’t offer any reason in particular.
“It (rise in killings) definitely started when they came in the picture,” Osmeña said…
In the last two months, those reportedly killed include a barangay councilor, a couple, two PDEA agents, and a 4-year-old child killed by a stray bullet.
It is strange that for a man whose life is under threat and whose city is in the grips of “terror” from half a dozen killings, Osmeña hasn’t been reported being seen at the Department of Interior and Local Government, National Police Commission, or National Bureau of Investigation. Neither has he been seen seeking help from his friends in the Senate, like Richard Gordon, or even his senator allies in the Liberal Party.
It would only be normal to assume that these law enforcement agencies would give the highest priority to ensuring Osmeña’s safety and national politicians, especially Osmeña’s allies or friends, would spare hours in a privilege speech to denounce any threat on his life.
But it seems Osmeña hasn’t reached out to them. Or at least, not yet.
Of course, that isn’t to say that Osmeña’s fears are unfounded or merely the product of delirium.
In several other interviews and on his Facebook page Osmeña portrays his bravery and willingness to sacrifice saying he had put off having surgery in the US so that he could continue to “guard” his people from threats.
“It is getting a little too hot here. I don’t want to make it appear that I am just running away,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Osmeña is scheduled to leave the country this week to undergo an operation.
“I’m going to the United States to have an operation on my hernia because it opened up the abdominal muscle and it’s coming out. That’s why I can’t carry weights and I’m not allowed to go jogging and I have to do some of that,” Osmeña had previously said.
Perhaps a hernia is really, indeed, a minor thing compared to the cancer he says he beat a year ago — the treatment for which, according to an affidavit submitted to the Department of Justice, was financed by drug lords.
In late March 2018, then Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II disclosed an affidavit executed in November 2016 by Reynaldo “Jumbo” Diaz, cousin and alleged bagman of slain drug lord Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz. The affidavit listed Osmeña among Cebu officials who allegedly received payola from their drug syndicate. The mayor was supposed to have received a total of P7 million: P2 million for hospitalization expenses in 2013 and P5 million during the 2016 elections.
Going back to the present, Osmeña says he is postponing his hernia surgery (the forth time he has done so, according to a news report) to be the close in security of Tejero barangay captain and now Councilman Jessielou Cadungog, who is now facing murder charges for the death of PO3 Eugene Calumba.
“I am Cadungog’s security — close in. I will protect him and protect my people,” Osmeña said during the filing of murder and frustrated murder charges against Cadungog and his bodyguard, William Macaslang Jr.
This would appear to be a noble sacrifice on Osmeña’s part, except that Cadungog’s name is in the illegal drugs watchlist for being presumably possessing illegal firearms.
Moreover, the “ambush” perpetrated against Cadungog appears to be a shoot out with the police where at least one account says he was the attacker.
It was initially reported that Cadungog survived an ambush attempt but was later tagged as the suspect in the killing of the apparent assailant PO3 Eugene Calumba.
Police Regional Office-Central Visayas Director Chief Supt. Sinas disclosed that there was no ambush. He tagged the side of Cadungog as responsible for the death of Calumba. “Actually, si Cadungog wala gipusil. Siya ang gapusil (Cadungog was not shot. He did the shooting),” Sinas said.
Calumba was detailed to the drug enforcement unit of Parian police station in Cebu City.
What is Cebu city Mayor Osmeña doing by siding with someone accused of killing a cop?
Moreover, is he really afraid for his life or is he using the Cadungog’s fake “ambush” story to manipulate the PNP to assign him police officials whom he can control?
It will be remembered that in 2016, the National Police Commission revoked his authority to supervise the local PNP.
This happened after Osmeña’s withdrew financial rewards and logistics support for the Cebu City Police Office. It was explained that this signified his disapproval of the series of revamps in the police leadership in the city and in Central Visayas.
Camp Crame had removed Senior Supt. Benjamin Santos as head of the Cebu City Police Office and Chief Supt. Patrocinio Comendador Jr. as police director for Central Visayas.
PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa apologized to Osmeña for replacing the local police chiefs without prior consultation: “I’m sorry, Sir, if you felt slighted that we removed your city director and your police officers who were identified in the drug trade.”
” … na-identify sila na sangkot sa illegal drug trade. Prangkahan na ito,” Dela Rosa said. He shared that some of the recently relieved police officials had been suspected of accepting money from personalities in the illegal drug trade.
Nevertheless, this was in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s warning that mayors who do not cooperate with his administration’s drug war would lose their deputization over police forces if they fail to “perform their supervision functions.”
The PNP had determined that Osmeña’s reaction withdrawing support for the police would have a “negative impact on the effectiveness of the peace and order campaign.”
In a resolution, NAPOLCOM indicated Osmeña “had decided to stop giving allowances and rewards” to newly assigned police officials in the city, “ceased in supplying gasoline” to police service vehicles, and barred the release of 15 patrol cars and three vans to the current city police leadership.
Osmeña was unhappy that the PNP ignored his request to allow Santos and Comendador to remain in their posts for 30 more days so as not to disrupt the momentum in the fight against illegal drugs.
“Being denied the chance to choose someone to work with was the very reason for my protest to begin with,” Osmeña stated, adding that he managed to get 9 of the 10 wanted drug pushers in Cebu City because he worked with men he could trust.
“It’s now all up to them [PNP]. I won’t do anything. Sila na ang bahala ana. Let them take over everything. We have other problems on traffic, garbage, drainage,” Osmeña said. “Apparently, somebody up there has no trust and confidence in our own commander so sila na ang magbuot.”
Oddly enough, the “other problems” that Osmeña said he would focus on continue to bedevil his city.
A friend who regularly circulates within circles composed of politicians and power brokers remarked, “Why is it that these Liberal Party people and assorted dilawans act like superstar celebrities and a good number of them turn out to have links with the illegal drug trade?”