THREE days before he assumed office last June, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella announced that he was recommending Police Col. Gemma Vinluan as his police chief.
A few other names had been mentioned as possible replacement for the retiring Col. Royina Garma, who was appointed general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, but Labella said he had someone else in mind. “I have read her curriculum vitae and was impressed by her accomplishments in her previous assignments, particularly in the fight against drugs and criminality,” he said.
It looks like the mayor’s trust was well placed. Yesterday, he was all praises for his police chief during a conversation with his walking friends. “The lady has balls,” he gushed. “She speaks her mind clearly and without fear of offending anyone.”
Vinluan’s first test came during the thanksgiving concert featuring mostly Cebuano artists inside the Cebu City Sports Center last week. The complex was filled to the brim by screaming fans numbering between 50,000 to 60,000, according to police estimates, and the possibility of a stampede crossed the minds of the organizers.
Vinluan, who was overseeing the security preparations, wanted all the gates to the center opened but because of some mix-up, her order was not immediately carried out. This got her goat.
“If you don’t open them now, I will pull out the police,” she reportedly threatened. All the gates immediately swung open after that.
A few days later, Labella met with the Sinulog Foundation Board together with some government officials to explain the rationale behind the creation of the Sinulog management board. He reiterated the need for accountability since a huge part of the expenses for staging the Sinulog is financed by public funds. We have to be transparent when it comes to public money, he stressed.
Besides, he added, it would be easier to secure assistance from the police and other government agencies if the request came from the City Government instead of from a private entity like the Foundation.
When it was her turn to speak, Vinluan did not mince words in affirming the mayor’s statement. Outside the chain of command, she reportedly told the audience, “I will take direct orders only from the President and from the mayor.”
Cebu City has a rich history of feuds between the mayor and the police chief. The latest episode featured then mayor Tomas Osmeña and Garma, who not only did not see eye to eye, but only had contempt for each other.
Listening to Labella, it is highly unlikely that he and Vinluan would figure in a reprise of the tragedy that hounded their predecessors.