Seares: Publicizing the dirt in Talisay, by President Duterte no less

Pachico A. Seares

“Ang druga kusog kaayo sa Cebu. Ang Talisay (City), wala na’y pahuway. Naa ang tanan dihang kabuang. Hasta ang mga (police) deputy director, naa sa druga. Mao nang daghang gipangpatay diri nga chief of police.”--President Duterte, in Sinulog closing program speech, Cebu City Sports Center, Jan. 19, 2020

IT wasn’t the first time President Duterte called out Talisay City for its drug problem. Aug. 21 last year, in another Cebu visit, he singled out Talisay (“especially Talisay”) as he promised “harsher anti-drug” measures in the province and cities of Cebu.

Last Sunday, at the Sinulog where public attention was massively focused on his speech at Cebu’s annual festival, Duterte was more descriptive: (1) “way pahuway,” literally “no rest,” a Cebuano-Bisaya idiom for intense and continuous activity, which isn’t equivalent to “restless”), and (2) “tanang kabuang” (“all sorts of foolishness”).

Deputy directors

And this time, he mentioned the police involvement in the crime. He specified “deputy directors” but cited the killings of police chiefs to support it. He didn’t allude to the mayor or any other local elected leader.

It’s doubtful if the local leaders, much less the public, know the nature and extent of the drug problem in Cebu and, maybe, given the widespread complaint on lack of hard data, the rest of the country.

About Talisay, one gets merely a glimpse of the situation, mostly in news media reports. As to involvement of the police, for example, the idea grasped is drawn from the series of news on the executions of PNP members. Marit Stinus-Cabugon, in a June 24, 2019 “The Manila Times” column (“Cebu policemen as victims of EJK”) counted seven cops gunned down as of that half-year period.

List of EJKs in Cebu

They included MSgt. Deogenes Carrillo, by in-tandem shooters in Mactan; SPO3 Mikie Espina, killed by sniper’s bullet at his chicken house in Tangke, Talisay; SPO2 Francis Villamor at the Danao City Hall of Justice; and Capt. Delfin Bontuyan, ambushed by four gunmen on motorcycle on a busy Cebu City street.

The rest: Cpl. Feliciano Yballe Jr. was killed by policemen who were in hot pursuit of the killer of MSgt. Junard Cinco. Bontuyan, a former CIDG chief, was ambushed by motorcycle-borne gunmen on Capitol Road in Cebu City.

Publicity of killings

Only one cop was killed and another injured in Talisay although there were a number of reported gun deaths of drug suspects, including the killing of two in Tangke and Lawaan on July 4, 2019. Apparently, publicity of its killings has helped nurture the image of Talisay as a hotbed of illegal drugs and other crimes. A memorable image etched in the public mind: The body of a “notorious robber” executed by unidentified persons, found on July 22, 2019 hanging from the busy Mananga Bridge in that city, with a placard of “Don’t be like me. I am a robber” draped on his neck.

[Related column: “Death on a bridge: advertising an execution,” News Sense, SunStar of July 22, 2019]

Carping by prominent personalities also magnified Talisay’s bad image. Then Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmena criticized then Talisay mayor Eduardo Gullas for “not doing anything” to solve the drug problem in that city. That was also advertising in a bad way.

Shaming local leaders

Those who support the President’s anti-illegal drugs campaign and its methods say the “public shaming” is aimed to jolt people and communities into action. The point being: leaders and residents of Talisay need to do more to stamp out the problem, in their own legal way, not by EJKs and advertising them on their traffic-heavy bridge.

Talisay Mayor Samsam Gullas quickly responded with an expression of support. His predecessor, his grandpa, now Rep. Eddie Gullas, made the same promise of action.

Are Talisay leaders given the hard facts on the illegal drugs menace. If they are getting only what the rest of the public learn from news media, they must ask for the information on the “real situation” from law enforcers. If they aren’t yet on the “high alert” level, the Talisay leaders must not be impressed by the picture they see.

The public humiliation without the hard facts may soon wear off by repetition.