CEBU CITY, Philippines – While Cebu City has been relatively peaceful this election season, more local politicians have reported receiving threats following an ambush attack on a controversial police officer and his wife earlier this week.
An Osmeña-allied city councilor and barangay councilor were the most recent political personalities to receive death threats.
Third-term councilor Eugenio “Jun” Gabuya Jr., who is serving his last term, told Rappler in a phone interview that he learned of the threat on Tuesday, May 3.
“Nakahibawo ko early in the morning sa katong ilang black-colored van og gipang labay nila nga botilya nga naay note inside…ang nakasulat kay ‘undang na sa imuhang politika’,” he said.
(I found out early in the morning about a black-colored van and bottles thrown with a note inside…what was written was ‘stop your politicking’.)
According to his neighbors, unidentified men on motorcycles fired bullets at their home in Barangay Cogon Pardo after writing “Kill Jun” on the fence on Monday, May 2. None of his family members were hurt.
Gabuya said the incident may have been politically-motivated, as one of the councilors in his barangay, a party ally, received the same threat: “Ug di ka muundang, patyon ka.” (If you don’t stop, you’ll be killed.)
Gabuya is a member of the local opposition party Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan. He is currently not running for any position, but is campaigning for other bets on the BOPK slate.
He said he planned to report the incident to the police, along with his family members and other witnesses.
Former Cebu City councilor and mayoral candidate Margot Osmeña also told the press during a conference on Wednesday, May 9, that their ally, Buhisan Barangay Captain Gremar Barete, also received threats.
Osmeña said the violence and threats would not deter her campaign.
“I don’t have any fears about being harassed. Even the last time when we were harassed, it did not make me afraid. But for councilors like Jun Gabuya, they were able to handle it,” Osmeña said.
When her husband, Tommy, was running for reelection in 2019, then Central Visayas police director Debold Sinas had police on 24-hour watch outside their home in Barangay Guadalupe.
Several of her barangay allies also reported being harassed or threatened back then.
Tommy lost his bid for reelection then to late Mayor Edgar Labella.
On April 22, Cebu City mayoral candidate Cebu City Councilor David Tumulak also received threats to his security, after his driver received a message from a city hall employee who allegedly tried to bribe the latter to disclose Tumulak’s whereabouts.
Tumulak reported this incident to the police together with his driver on April 26.
The latest developments follow the ambush earlier this week on controversial Cebu police officer, Police Lieutenant Chuck Barandog, and his wife, Yvonne Cania-Barandog, in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City. The couple are currently in the hospital but are in stable condition. (READ: Controversial cop in critical condition after Cebu City ambush)
The police denied that the attack was politically motivated.
Yvonne is a Samahan ng Totoong Larong may Puso (STL) partylist first nominee, and a relative of Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, who issued a statement on the attack.
“The shooting of P/Lt. Col. Chuck Barandog and my relative Yvonne Cania last night must be looked into with dispatch by our police to bring to justice the perpetrators,” Rama said.
The incumbent mayor, who assumed the post after Labella died in November 2021, is running for mayor again this year.
Rama assured the public that he would continue to work with the police to ensure the safety of every candidate in the city.
“I’ve been having command conferences [with the police], preparing for these political skirmishes,” Rama said.
As of this writing, Commission on Elections Central Visayas has identified at least seven areas in the province of Cebu that are under close monitoring for potential election-related violence. Cebu City is still not on the list of Comelec’s hotspots.
Meanwhile, Bogo City, Camotes Island, and the municipalities of San Fernando, Daanbantayan, and Madrijedos are considered “areas of concern” due to their history of election-related violence. – Rappler.com