‘No kill order,’ says new Cebu City top cop Gemma Vinluan

Ryan Macasero
‘No kill order,’ says new Cebu City top cop Gemma Vinluan
Colonel Vinluan says her orders to police are to neutralize, 'but not to kill' suspects

CEBU CITY, Philippines – While anti-drug operations would continue in the biggest city in the Central Visayas, there would be no shoot-to-kill order, said new Cebu City Police Office Director Colonel Gemma Cruz Vinluan. (READ: Gemma Cruz Vinluan takes over as new Cebu City police chief)

“Neutralize, not to kill. But to restrain them from doing harm to people and the police officers,” Vinluan told reporters on the sidelines of her turnover ceremony on Thursday, July 11. “But if they surrender themselves, I promise I will not hurt them, I will bring them to court alive,” she added.

According to an Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University study, Cebu City and province ranked third in the number of drug suspects killed in police operations after Metro Manila and Bulacan from 2016 to 2018.

Vinluan, who takes over from police colonel Royina Garma, breaks away from President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements to shoot to kill drug suspects who allegedly fight back. (READ: Shoot to kill? Duterte’s statements on killing drug users)

The drug war has led to at least 6,000 suspected drug personalities killed in police operations, while human rights groups peg the number at more than 20,000. (READ: PH drug war killings reach ‘threshold of crimes against humanity’ – report)

The number of unsolved killings in Cebu City significantly increased under Garma’s watch starting in 2018. Ex-Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña had accused the outgoing chief along with Brigadier General Debold Sinas, the current police regional director, of being behind the killings. (READ: Crime City? Killings in Cebu rise as mayor, cops feud)

To address the unsolved killings, Vinluan said she would review the cases pending investigation and “build a team to ensure cases would be given justice.

While she said that she would give suspects enough opportunity to surrender before resorting to lethal measures, she said that she would stop short of disallowing it in anti-drug operations.

Pag nakita na ang baril, bibilangan siya hanggang dalawa, hindi tatlo (When they see a gun, they should only count to two, not three),” Vinluan said. “I cannot promise it will be less bloody, but they [suspects] will be given enough chance to surrender,” she added.

Prior to being assigned in Cebu City, Vinluan was head of the Women and Children Protection Desk at the Philippine National Police Headquarters in Camp Crame.

She said that aside from the war on drugs, she would prioritize campaigning to protect women and children from abuse in Cebu City. “We will have regular visitations to schools and set up PICAAC desks (women and children’s protection centers),” the first-time city director said.

“We will campaign to educate the public on different forms of child abuse. Rapists aren’t always random, they can be family members sometimes,” she added.

She also highlighted the importance of transparency in running the police office. “That [transparency] is very important,” Vinluan said.

“Good governance starts with transparency and accountability and that shouldn’t just go for the police but any government agency. The Philippines will never flourish if all people think about is how to make a quick buck,” she added.

The other two major cities in Metro Cebu – Mandaue City and Lapu Lapu City – will also get two new police chiefs. Colonel Jonathan Abella would take over Mandaue City, while Colonel Clarito Baja would lead Lapu-Lapu City. Their turnover ceremonies are scheduled for Monday, July 15. – Rappler.com

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Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at ryan.macasero@rappler.com