Next on kill list? Mayor Osmeña shrugs off death threats

Rambo Talabong
Next on kill list? Mayor Osmeña shrugs off death threats
'I’m like a security guard – that’s all I am, okay? When there’s a robbery, I have to stay there,' says Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña

MANILA, Philippines – Cebu City Mayor Tomas “Tommy” Osmeña said on Friday, August 10, that just like any other sane person, he fears he would be the next local chief gunned down under the Duterte administration but this never made him consider leaving his post.

The outspoken mayor made the statement in a Rappler Talk interview on Friday, August 10.

So far, 10 mayors had been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office.  Asked if he was afraid that he would be next, Osmeña said: “Of course I am afraid. You have to be crazy enough [not] to be afraid.”

He quickly added: “But you know, that cannot be an excuse. I cannot abandon my post. I don’t like them (Cebuanos) to see their mayor being more worried about himself.”

Asked how he was preparing for threats to his life, he was not doing anything. Osmeña has not augmented his security detail since being informed about an alleged plot to kill him, but he carries a gun.

“I just tell the people around my office: ‘If there’s any incident, and somebody starts shooting at me, don’t run away. Just drop down to the ground so that whoever is standing, that’s who I’ll shoot.’ Simple,” the Cebu mayor said with a laugh.

Osmeña likened his situation to a “security guard” who should not think of his personal safety when duty calls.

“I’m like a security guard – that’s all I am, okay? When there’s a robbery, I have to stay there. I cannot say, ‘Sorry, I have to escape, I might get hurt.’ No. That’s my job,” he said.

It has been a tricky time for Osmeña who, upon his reelection in 2016,  set up a reward system for cops who kill criminals but two months later got stripped of his powers over the police after he withdrew support for his city’s police. Killings in the city rose under the new police chiefs, the mayor said.

Osmeña recently posted on Facebook a text message he received from a Central Visayas cop who urged him to be careful as there was a reported plan to kill him, and then link him to illegal drugs. In March, then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II tagged him as a “drug protector,” which the mayor denied.

Osmeña told Rappler that he “didn’t pay attention” to it and shared it with a barangay councilor who was mentioned in the text message to caution him, referring to Tejero Councilman Jessielou Cadungog.

Cadungog survived an ambush attempt on July 30, and one of the supposed assailants, who was killed during the incident, was identified as a Cebu cop. A few days later, however, the police named Cadungog as a suspect in the murder of Police Officer 3 Eugene Calumba and said he was in the government’s drug watchlist. –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.