No problem for Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo Jr.
He welcomed as “very good suggestions” the appeal of Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama to remove barriers and pull out policemen in the Provincial Capitol.
“If you can remember, we first deployed 200 policemen in the area. It’s down to 50 personnel and lower than that now,” said Garbo.
“Even before the mayor made the suggestion, we already reduced the number.” The barricades have already been removed as well, he added.
The chief of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 said he would also have to reduce the number of police bodyguards assigned to suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia with the start of the election gun ban nationwide on Sunday, Jan. 13.
Offhand, Garbo said he didn’t know how many bodyguards Garcia has and still has to find out.
Under Comelec Resolution 9385, the use of security personnel and bodyguards by candidates as well as bearing, carrying and transporting firearms and deadly weapons is prohibited unless authorized in writing by the poll body starting Jan. 13.
Based on direct observation by Capitol reporters who cover her, ten policemen are assigned in three shifts to guard Garcia.
Different teams are used each day, including weekends and holidays if she goes out of town.
The total number is bigger if you include Capitol security personnel and blue guards who accompany her.
Her son Paulo manages the family-owned GGC Security Group which also provides close-in escorts for Garcia.
With the Jan. 13 election gun ban, all permits to carry firearms outside residence issued by the PNP to civilian gun holders are suspended.
Only law enforcers on duty and in full uniform are allowed to carry firearms outside residence.
Garbo said policemen have been gradually withdrawn from the Capitol, where Garcia has refused to vacate the office since Dec. 19.
But Garbo said he can’t pull out the entire police detail until an assessment is made of the peace and order needs.
“What we have now is a minimum police force because that is the request of Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale. There are critical posts in the Capitol where we still have men posted,” he said.
About 200 members of the Regional Public Safety Battalion, a group trained for counter-insurgency operations in the countryside, were first assigned to the Capitol in the first tense days following the Dec. 19 suspension order.
Iron railings were installed in front until security measures were scaled down during weekends and non-working holidays.
Mayor Rama earlier said he didn’t want to alarm visitors of the Sinulog celebration by having the Capitol “look like a garrison”.
He sent word to Garbo that he wanted the policemen pulled out before the Jan. 11 Sinulog kickoff.
With less than 50 uniformed policemen working in three shifts now, there are less than 20 policemen at a time in the Capitol.
Garbo said their presence would not affect tourism and that in fact, latest reports show that tourism in Central Visayas continues to enjoy growth.