WHEN Cebu City was locked down because of the Covid-19 pandemic in March last year, one of the first things the police did was to summon reinforcements from other parts of the region. The decision must have been reached upon the request of, or at least in consultation with, local officials who wanted to make sure that the lockdown was strictly observed.
Besides, we did not know how the people would react to their suddenly being out of work and forced to stay at home. Hungry and desperate men (and women) are known to resort to desperate moves. The looting in devastated Tacloban in the days immediately following super typhoon Yolanda must have hung in the minds of our officials. Since the likeliest targets of looting are mostly in Cebu City, which also has the largest concentration of people in the region, deploying more policemen here was a sound strategic decision.
Not being privy to the decision-making, I am, of course, speculating. But I am certain that more than a thousand policemen were reassigned to Cebu City during the lockdown because I saw them camped inside the Cebu City Sports Center when I went there. And they’re still there now although perhaps in lesser number.
A bit of history here. Two people are mainly responsible for the establishment of the CCSC: Tommy Osmeña and Joy Young. Eddie Gullas wanted the sports center built in Talisay, but Osmeña and Young were adamant that the old Abellana grounds was a more suitable location.
Eddiegul eventually relented and the rest, as they say, is history. In insisting on Cebu City as site of the sports center, Osmeña pointed out that more people would be able to avail of the facility than if it were located in Talisay because of its accessibility. He was right. For many years, thousands flocked to the CCSC to train, jog, walk, belly dance, sports dance, box or swim, among others. It has also become a meeting place of sorts. I had the privilege of walking with the three last mayors of Cebu City there: Tommy, Mike Rama and Edgar Labella.
All these activities have been put on hold since the CCSC became a temporary police encampment at the start of the lockdown. For more than 13 months now, the oval has been off limits to the public upon orders of City Hall and many are asking when they could use it again.
I wish I knew the answer.
I spoke to the CCSC manager, Jundel Bontuyan, recently and he is just as clueless as I am. In the meantime, cracks are beginning to show in many
areas of the rubberized track, the swimming pool had been allowed to dry because the chemicals are costly and the parking lot has become a garage for the cars of police officials.
Also in the meantime, more than 50 people are out of work as the CCSC had to furlough its employees while the facility is not operating.
The pandemic is still raging and while we are no longer on lockdown, there is no assurance that it will not be ordered again. Maybe that is why the police are still there. Again, I am speculating.
(Disclosure: I am the chairman of the management committee of the CCSC.)