Cebu City top cop's biggest challenge? Demolition, not drugs

CEBU CITY, Philippines – While the campaign against drugs continues in Cebu City, police director Gemma Cruz Vinluan said on Monday, September 2, that the biggest challenge in her first 55 days in office was not the drug campaign but how to handle demolitions.

Hindi tayo natutuwa na yung mga maliliit nating kababayan naiaalis natin sa kanilang comfort zone (We aren’t happy when we have to remove our marginalized countrymen from their comfort zones),” Vinluan said on the sidelines of a Crime Prevention Week event in Cebu City.

On August 7, demolition teams began implementing a court order to take down homes of at least 77 families living in Sitio Avocado in Barangay Lahug, a property being reclaimed by the University of the Philippines, Cebu, for its expansion plans.

Police assisted in securing the area when the order was implemented by demolition crews.

“Mahirap yun, mas mahirap yun sa  illegal drugs (That's more difficult than illegal drugs),” Vinluan said.

“Kasi siyempre hindi pwedeng yung nararamdaman ko at tsaka yung responsibilidad ko bilang police hindi ko magawa (But of course I can’t let what I feel get in the way of my responsibility as a member of the police),” she added.

She said anti-drug operations have already been “mastered” but there are other areas that they still need to work on.

While Vinluan cites demolitions as her greatest challenge, she is happy with the progress of peace and security in Cebu City during her first 55 days as its city director.

“We have a good deployment plan. Even police working at HQ (headquarters) go on patrol,” she said in Filipino.

“Our deployment ratio is 90:10 [10 police officers per 90 residents],” Vinluan said. “We have police strategically posted in crime-prone areas as well.”

The first-time city director was the choice of current Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella, who unseated longtime ex-Mayor Tomas Osmeña in the last election.

At the Crime Prevention Week event, Labella said he would support local police in focusing on prevention.

“For her short stint as city director, she has accomplished a lot,” Labella said.

According to the Cebu City Police Office, over P104 million in illegal drugs have been confiscated in operations since Vinluan took office last July.

Vinluan said police would focus on going after “big time” drug lords in the coming days and is confident the progress will continue. –

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.