CEBU CITY—At first, they were mistaken for “umbrella boys” by those who attended the Liberal Party (LP) rally on Tuesday in Talisay City, 12 kilometers south of Cebu City.
Wearing white barong and black pants, the 20 men were seen running to meet arriving vehicles and holding yellow umbrellas printed with “Casino Filipino” to protect VIP guests from the rain spawned by Tropical Depression “Crising.”
They are actually members of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) of Police Regional Office who were instructed to protect President Benigno Aquino and other LP stalwarts from the rain. They played the role to the hilt.
For Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo, police director for Central Visayas, there was nothing demeaning about policemen holding umbrellas for VIPs attending the LP rally at Tabunok Sports Complex in Barangay Tabunok, Cebu City. The umbrellas were donated by the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
“He is the President. It’s our mandate to protect him and his party,” Garbo told a news conference on Wednesday.
The official said “it might look bad if the policemen were in uniform.”
On Monday, Garbo said he was informed by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration on Mactan Island in Cebu that it would rain during the rally, so he ordered his chief of staff, Senior Supt. Edward Caranza, to prepare the umbrellas.
Senior Supt. Leopoldo Cabanag, RPSB chief, said the policemen were also part of the covert security force because no one would suspect they were policemen. But when the Inquirer asked who they were, PO1 Gemer Abrica readily replied: “We are policemen, sir.”
Last week, Abrica said the team also played a similar role when Director General Alan Purisima, chief of the Philippine National Police, visited Cebu City.
It was sunny at that time, and Abrica said he and his colleagues also held umbrellas for the guests.
The incessant rains forced the LP to change the venue of its first political rally in Cebu for the May elections. The rally was originally planned to be held on a 1-hectare lot across Talisay City Hall, but it was transferred to Tabunok Sports Complex.
The stage was bare, except for a tarpaulin welcoming the
President. Yellow balloons and tarpaulins of candidates hanged on the sides of the complex.
Despite the rain, the place was filled with supporters by 6 p.m. Tuesday. Many of them stayed outside the 5,000-capacity sports complex, some with umbrellas and others soaking. With reports from Jhunnex Napallacan and Doris Bongcac