SHE walked out of the Capitol’s main door, crossed the quadrangle and addressed an open crowd in full public view in Sunday afternoon’s rally in support of an embattled Cebu governor.
Suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia was an exposed target for law enforcers if they had wanted to shut her out of the building– or take her into custody.
“The police were more than ready to do that,” Supt. Paul Labra II told Cebu Daily News when asked why they didn’t lock up the Capitol at that moment to prevent Garcia from returning.
“That shows she’s free to move around in the Capitol.”
What’s stopping them is the lack of a clear order from superiors to move in – which won’t happen under the often-repeated directive of “maximum tolerance”.
“Taking her down would be easy,” said Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo, in a TV interview.
But he said there must be an order from the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame or the Department of Interior and Local Government.
He can add a third decision maker – Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale who said she was happy so far with how Garbo, the regional police chief, has been calling the shots to implement her directive of “super maximum tolerance”.
Labra, chief of the Regional Intelligence Division (RID) in the Police Regional Office, is part of a special task force created for the standoff in the Capitol.
The task force headed by Senior Supt. Louie Oppus meets daily in the Battle Staff Office in Camp Sergio Osmeña to assess the situation.
Even after Garcia fortified the Capitol and shut out policemen yesterday, no order was received from PNP Deputy Director General Alan Purisima to take action.
“I take orders from my boss and we have not received any order yet,” Garbo told CDN.
He denied Garcia’s allegations that he planned to physically evict her by Dec. 31.
“Siguro I was just misquoted,” Garbo said, explaining that he simply made a suggestion to Acting Governor Magpale to have a time frame for dealing with the Capitol impasse for operational planning.
Garbo said he pitied his men fielded at the Capitol for 13 days now, some spending Christmas and New Year, at their stations.
They have other jobs to do, he said, anti-crime drives, public safety and maintaining peace and order.
“Hindi lang yun ang trabaho namin (Guarding the Capitol is not their only job.)
The Dec. 19 confrontation at the Capitol entrance where Inspector. Avelino Enguito got his head smacked by Garcia supporters, who were angered by the police confiscation of three tents, almost started a melee.
The junior officer, in his affidavit, said “all my men who were in full battle gear reacted upon seeing me being attacked and assaulted, but I managed to wave my hands (to signal them) to stay calm….The agitation could have sparked a bloody confrontation but we chose to be calm…”
The policemen belong to the PNP Regional Public Safety Battalion based in Sibonga town, an anti-insurgency group trained to endure extreme field conditions.
Garbo said that when Garcia stepped out of the Capitol to address a really on Sunday afternoon, that itself was a “threat to the peace and order situation” but she was still left alone to move around.
“That is one proof that there is no martial law as they complain,” said Garbo.
Labra refused to discuss what their plans are. He said reinforcements from the regional Public Safety Battalion are monitoring the entry of visitors in the Capitol, especially to ensure that no guns get through. /Jucell Marie P. Cuyos, Reporter