With the opening of 2015 we look back at 2014 with relief that we made it through and with a fervent wish for a better year. Crime and the fight against it hog the headlines of Cebu news organizations. With 2016 approaching, politics is starting to heat up. This year, politics will start to dominate news.
Here is MyCebu.ph’s countdown of the 10 biggest news stories in Cebu for 2014.
1. LBC Express robberies
They say that bad luck comes in threes, but it was more than double this number for the courier company LBC Express in Cebu which was hit by robbery after robbery in 2014.
On September 2, the seventh LBC Express outlet in Cebu, located in Punta Princesa, Cebu City, was hit by robbers who ran off with P5,000 in cash. Just a few days before that, the LBC branch along a busy street in Subangdaku, Mandaue City lost P24,000 in cash and valuables to robbers in just within three minutes. The seven robberies cost LBC a combined total of around P200,000.
“They can afford to invest on security but they are not doing it,” — Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.
Police have cited security lapses in these outlets, such as the lack of security guards and damaged security cameras. LBC management, in a close-door meeting with police, still wouldn’t hire guards but agreed to have their cashiers and tellers undergo training on what to do when robbers strike.
In Cebu City, Mayor Michael Rama ordered the temporary closures of all LBC outlets not found within malls in the interest of public safety.
Stories on the LBC robberies:
- Cebu Daily News: LBC Punta Princesa robbed
- Sun.Star Cebu: LBC outlet robbed 2 days after hold-up in anothern branch
- Sun.Star Cebu: LBC robberies prompt police to do profiling, step up visibility
- Sun.Star Cebu: Cops, LBC agree to address security issues, train staff
- Sun.Star Cebu: Mayor to LBC Express: Beef up security or lose permits
- Sun.Star Cebu: Mayor closes LBC outlets
- Sun.Star Cebu: 3 men rob another LBC branch with a damaged CCTV, no security guards
- The Freeman: City threatens to padlock LBC
- The Freeman: Police: “Local boys” behind LBC robbery
- The Freeman: LBC robberies, cops eye action vs victims
- Sun.Star Cebu: Police disappointed with LBC’s lack of cooperation
- Sun.Star Cebu: LBC management to face probe for deleting footage
2. Noel Archival ambush
In mid-February, reports from Dalaguete that Cebuano lawyer Noel Archival was killed in an ambush along the southern town’s national highway shocked the Cebuano community. Killed along with Archival was his aide and driver Alejandro Jaime.
Archival, 52, and his companions were heading back to Cebu City from a court hearing in Dumaguete City on February 18 when his vehicle was peppered with bullets by assailants on separate vehicles.
An even more horrific development in the story: three policemen of the Highway Patrol Group Region 7, including former chief Senior Supt. Romualdo Iglesia, were charged with multiple and frustrated murder charges soon after the February 18 ambush.
Stories on the killing of lawyer Noel Archival:
- Cebu Daily News: Archival, aides killed in ambush
- Sun.Star Cebu: Cebu lawyer killed in ambush
- The Freeman: Lawyer, two staff slain in ambush
- Sun.Star Cebu: Judges remember slain lawyer as court jester
- Sun.Star Cebu: Colleague, partner recalls Archival’s wit, humor, guts
- Cebu Daily News: How Atty. Noel proved a marshal accused of raping a girl 36 times innocent
- Cebu Daily News: NBI finds red car used by Archival’s killers parked in compound of Highway Patrol Group
- Sun.Star Cebu: Possible suspects: cops, military
- Cebu Daily News: 3 HPG cops charged for Archival murder
- The Freeman: NBI, PNP tag policemen: 5 HPG cops charged for Archival ambush
- Sun.Star Cebu: 5 HPG 7 officials want their case to be heard in Manila, not Cebu
- Sun.Star Cebu: Manhunt afoot vs 3 ex-Highway Patrol Group officers
- Sun.Star Cebu: HPG officials must explain why suspects disappeared
Barely a month after, a similar violent attack in Toledo City claimed the life of a barangay councilor and left her common-law husband in critical condition. Alexander Alquiza, Captain Claudio barangay chief, was on his way home with his family when they were assaulted on the boundary of Barangay Carmen and Dumlog around 4 p.m. on March 4, 2014.
Alquiza’s live-in partner, who was a barangay councilwoman, was killed. Their adopted son, 4, and three other passengers were unharmed.
- Sun.Star Cebu: Barangay councilor killed in ambush; village captain hurt
- Sun.Star Cebu: Witnesses identify suspect in ambush of Toledo officials
3. Dispute over Naga-Carcar century-old trees
Arguably one the most contentious issues in Cebu in 2014 was about the century-old trees that line the national highway in the southern towns of Naga, San Fernando, and Carcar. Attention became focused on the 100-year-old acacia trees when one toppled and crumpled a passing dumptruck at 3 p.m. along Balud, San Francisco in July 9, stalling traffic for hours.
In response to the call of local officials in Cebu’s first district, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) conducted an assessment of the health of the trees and identified 41 of various species that need to be cut immediately. It directed the local officials and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in July 18 to immediately cut the trees it had found defective or diseased.
Despite appeals from conversationists and well-known environmental advocate, running priest Fr. Robert Reyes, DPWH started cutting some of the trees in August. The agency, however, had to suspend its work when some of the conservation advocates holding a rally nearby to protest the agency’s move climbed the trees in the City of Naga.
Upon the order of Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, DENR-Central Visayas Executive Director Isabelo Montejo recalled the permit covering three remaining diseased acacia trees. He added that future applications for the cutting of trees from Naga City to Carcar City will not be granted, a decision lauded by conservationists but met with objection by local officials of Naga and San Fernando.
DPWH said the road widening along this stretch will be further delayed as its engineers will have to find ways to not harm the trees in the course of the construction work.
Stories on the dispute:
- Sun.Star Cebu: DENR asks DPWH, San Fernando town to remove 41 trees
- Sun.Star Cebu: ‘Check those century trees’
- Sun.Star Cebu: Another century-old tree falls, this time in Carcar City
- The Freeman: Naga tree-cutting halted after protesters climb trees
- Sun.Star Cebu: Old tree falls, damages 3 homes
- Cebu Daily News: Mountaineer climbs Naga tree; all cutting suspended
- Cebu Daily News: Petition asks Court of Appeals to stop tree cutting in Naga
- Cebu Daily News: DPWH boss: No money to replace trees
- Cebu Daily News: Tree expert’s verdict: ‘No need to cut Naga trees’
- Cebu Daily News: 24 Naga trees cut after filing of Writ of Kalikasan
- The Freeman: Naga courtesy visit turns sour Mayor, priest figure in heated tree debate
- The Freeman: Naga oval track project can now continue – Paje
4. NPA couple’s arrest
A joint team of the Philippine Army, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and Carcar City police arrested the couple in the top helm of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in the Cebu town of Aloguinsan.
Benito Tiamzon, 63, is the party chairman while his wife, Wilma Austria-Tiamzon, 61, is the secretary general. The couple and five others arrested with them were transported to Camp Crame shortly after their arrest on MArch 22, 2014. They were on board a Starex van and Toyota Innova when caught.
The couple, who was arrested in a mountain village in Aloguinsan, had been staying in a house owned by a businessman in San Fernando. Chief Supt. Danilo Constantino, Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 director, said the Tiamzons had been staying for about two months in Cebu, probably for rest and recreation.
Stories about their arrest:
- Sun.Star Cebu: Arrests of CPP-NPA leaders ‘a big blow’
- Philippine Daily Inquirer: CPP chief, 6 other top communist execs nabbed
- Sun.Star Cebu: No guns found in Tiamzon ‘safe house’ in Cebu
- Philippine Daily Inquirer: Tiamzon arrest a ‘big blow’ to CPP, Malacañang ready for NPA revenge
- Cebu Daily News: Tiamzons were under surveillance for 2 months
- Philippine Star: Gov’t: No immunity for CPP chief, wife
- Philippine Daily Inquirer: Tiamzon couple, co-accused indicted in Cebu court
- Philippine Daily Inquirer: Neighbor describes NPA couple quiet and reclusive
- Sun.Star Cebu: Tiamzon informant to get P10M bounty
- Philippine Daily Inquirer: Tiamzon couple top PNP 2014 arrests
5. Cebu City Council realignment
Allies of Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama tried but failed to wrestle control of the City Council from Bando Osmena-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) councilors in early October.
Team Rama councilors expected help from four of their colleagues who bolted out of the BO-PK in August 19 to form an independent bloc, over disagreements on how the South Road Properties (SRP) should be sold.
The four included Councilors Gerardo Carillo, Noel Wenceslao, Roberto Cabarrubias, and Richard “Richie” Osmena.
After Cabarrubias voted with the BO-PK during the October 8 reorganization of the City Council’s 22 committees initiated by Team Rama, three other councilors from the independent bloc lost their chairmanships.
Stories on the council drama:
- Sun.Star Cebu: 4 dads leave BOPK
- Cebu Daily News: Rama welcomes defection of four BO-PK councilors
- The Freeman: Tomas: Cebu City’s future in Bob’s hands
- Cebu Daily News: BO-PK wards off takeover bid in City Council; ousts 3 former allies as heads of key committees
- The Freeman: BOPK still rules
- Sun.Star Cebu: Independent bloc members end up as casualties in City Council reorganization
- Cebu Daily News: Cabarrubias: I never left BO-PK bloc
6. Carcar and Boljoon accidents
Two fatal road accidents occurred during the first half of 2014. The first one was on February 6, when a sedan driven by a medical representative hit a group of high school students as they walked home from school in the southern Cebu town of Boljoon.
Three seniors of the Boljoon National High School were killed while another three of their friends were wounded. They were walking by the side of the road when a silver Toyota Vios driven by Al-Dhinier Hadjula Sanaani swerved and flipped over on the Lusapon Bridge before hitting the students. The three girls killed were thrown from the bridge into the riverbed some 15 meters below.
On April 10, nine people were killed while 24 others were wounded when a truck slammed a concrete fence and plowed into a house before falling on its side in Carcar City. The truck, which had 30 passengers, came from the market day or tabo in Barangay Mantalongon, Barili and was on its way to Argao when the accident happened in Barangay Guadalupe.
Five people were killed on the spot while two others died on the way to the hospital. Two more succumbed to their injuries a day later.
A complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and multiple physical injuries was filed against truck driver Mario Famulagan, 58.
Stories on the accidents:
- Sun.Star Cebu: 3 girls hit, killed
- The Freeman: 3 students killed in road accident
- Cebu Daily News: Car skids in Boljoon bridge 2 killed
- Sun.Star Cebu: Victim set to marry American boyfriend
- Sun.Star Cebu: Friends, family mourn loss of ‘songbirds’
- The Freeman: Boljoon road accident med rep posts bail
- Sun.Star Cebu: 7 dead, 24 hurt in Cebu road mishap
- The Freeman: Livestock truck crashes into house: 7 dead, 24 hurt in Carcar accident
- Philippine Daily Inquirer: Six killed in Cebu road accident
- The Freeman: LTFRB says: Truck in Carcar accident has no franchise record
- Sun.Star Cebu: 2 more victims in Cebu road mishap die
7. Taping of newborn’s mouth
A photo posted on Facebook of a newborn boy with his mouth taped caused an outcry from netizens. After contracting an infection shortly after he was born on May 3, the baby had to stay for a few days more in the hospital.
His parents were shocked to see their son’s taped lips when they visited him on the hospital on May 9. The nurse told them the boy’s mouth was taped with medical adhesive because he was crying too loudly and was always asking for milk.
The attending nurse’s supervisor further explained that their son’s lips were taped so he could suck on this pacifier properly and that it just might have fallen from his mouth.
The couple took the matter to social media where they earned sympathy from netizens, who also expressed outrage against the hospital. Government agencies like the Department of Health (DOH) and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) conducted investigations on the taping of the infant’s mouth.
About 15 days after, another mother posted pictures of her newborn child on Facebook with a pacifier taped to her mouth while confined at the Cebu Puericulture Center and Maternity House (CPCMH).
The baby was only two days old when the picture was taken. The infant’s mother said her daughter was born on February 22 and when she visited her at the nursery, she found her baby and two to three others with a pacifier taped to their mouths.
Stories on the incidents:
- Sun.Star Cebu: Photo of newborn with mouth taped causes outcry
- Philippine Star: Parents of baby ‘silenced’ with tape to sue maternity clinic
- Cebu Daily News: Cebu City Council condemns photo of baby with taped mouth
- Sun.Star Cebu: DOH will investigate alleged taping of infant’s lips
- Sun.Star Cebu: Nurses speak up: We didn’t tape baby’s mouth
- The Freeman: ‘Taping’: An old hospital practice
- The Freeman: Taping incident baby’s parents: No settlement
- Cebu Daily News: Taped baby’s mama denies signing settlement
- Sun.Star Cebu: Another baby’s mouth taped
- Cebu Daily News: ‘Taped’ baby comes home; father says nurse’s lapse shows need ‘to fix the system’
- The Freeman: Number rises to four, two other babies ‘silenced’ with tape
- Sun.Star Cebu: Taped baby ma signed papers, cashed check: Cebu hospital
- Cebu Daily News: More come forward to show taping babies’ mouth common
- Sun.Star Cebu: Hospital: Voucher, check show ma ‘received aid’
Another incident that was brought to the public’s attention through social media is the berating by a priest of a young mother during the baptism of her son in Barangay Jagobiao, Mandaue City on July 6.
A video of the priest scolding the unwed mom was posted on the video-sharing site YouTube that very night and garnered 4,000 likes within two days. It was shared over 20,000 times. The teenage mom said she was deeply hurt and affected by what the priest did.
“I deeply regret that I have done this. I only later realized how cruel my ways to educate and impart lessons for the said event.” — Fr. Romeo Obach in his apology
The priest later apologized personally and through a handwritten letter to the 17-year-old mother and the video was taken down from the YouTube site.
Stories on the incident:
- Sun.Star Cebu: Cebu priest berates unwed mother, 17, during baptism
- Philippine Daily Inquirer: Suspended Cebu priest to unwed mother: Stupid, Shameful
- Sun.Star Cebu: Priest berates ma, 17; video goes viral on FB
- Sun.Star Cebu: Teen mom decided to keep child after suicide attempt
- Sun.Star Cebu: Teenage ma gets handwritten apology from Cebu priest
- Sun.Star Cebu: Priest apologizes
- Sun.Star Cebu: Congregation wraps up probe on priest in video
8. Tale of two storms
The best example of how unpredictable the weather has become involved two storms that passed by Visayas in December.
Weather forecasters in early December warned of an incoming deadly typhoon that is packing sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 240 kph as it barrels toward the Philippines. The warning sent many people fleeing their homes and sparked panic-buying sprees in stores as it brought back memories of the 2013 deadly onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda. Over a million people were evacuated from their homes in preparation for the typhoon.
Typhoon Ruby (international codename: Hagupit) weakened into a tropical storm as it made landfall in the central Philippines. It tore down homes, felled power poles and trees, and caused floods but the death toll was low at 21.
On the other hand, tropical storm Seniang (international codename: Jang-mi), which packed winds of 65 kph near the center and gusts of up to 80 kph, was deadlier. Seniang killed 53 people as it swept across the Visayas and Mindanao from December 29-30.
Three Cebu towns have been placed under a state calamity and local officials said damage to the province could reach P1 billion.
Stories of the 2 storms:
- GMA News: Typhoon Hagupit enters PAR, has 75% chance of making landfall
- GMA News: Philippines starts evacuating residents ahead of Typhoon Hagupit
- Rappler: Big chance Typhoon Hagupit will hit PH – PAGASA
- GMA News: Typhoon Ruby tears down homes in disaster-weary PHL
- Philippine Daily Inquirer: ‘We prepared for Ruby, not Seniang’
- GMA News: Weaker Seniang deadlier than Super Typhoon Ruby, kills 53
- GMA News: 3 Cebu towns under state of calamity due to Seniang, damage could reach P1B
9. Fight against illegal drugs
If there’s one issue that consistently hogged the headlines in Cebu in 2014, it involved heightened efforts against illegal drugs, particularly shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride. Police reported in late June that the were able to confiscate P34 million worth of illegal drugs from January to June, P27 million more compared to the same period in 2013.
The Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 said it conducted over 1,000 operations against drugs in the first six months of the year. Police anti-drug efforts were intensified in the second half of 2014.
On August 8, a 14-year-old girl was caught with P5.9 million worth of suspected shabu in Barangay Labangon, Cebu City. More shabu dealers were arrested in follow-up raids in Cebu City, Consolacion, Liloan, and Lapu-Lapu City on August 20 and 21.
Over at the neighboring island of Bohol, the police chief of the town of Ubay was killed in an ambush in June and six of his suspected assailants, one of whom was a former policeman and identified as the number one drug lord in the province, were killed in a police operation.
On August 22, police suffered a setback in the fight against drugs when another policeman, part of a team verifying reports of a pot session, was killed by a lone assailant in Tagbilaran City, Bohol.
Some stories on the anti-drugs campaign:
- Sun.Star Cebu: Girl, 14, charged for P6-M Cebu drug bust
- The Freeman: 14-year-old girl ‘bigtime’ pusher
- Philippine Daily Inquirer: NBI alarmed by abundance of illegal drugs in Cebu
- Cebu Daily News: Manhunt on for gunmen who shot dead two policemen in Moalboal drug den
- GMA News: Police chief of Bohol town dies in ambush; 6 suspects killed in follow-up operation
- The Freeman: Cop dead, 3 wounded in Bohol drug operation
- The Freeman: Shabu worth P6M seized
- The Freeman: Suspect yields P11.8M drugs
- Sun.Star Cebu: More shabu dealers fall in Cebu
- Sun.Star Cebu: Cop killed in Bohol drug bust, 3 others injured
- Sun.Star Cebu: His last P100, her last goodbye
- Sun.Star Cebu: Seized drugs up by P27M
- Sun.Star Cebu: More cops linked to shabu trade
10. King shot dead in Davao
A prominent Cebuano businessman was shot dead on June 12 in Davao City. Businessman
Richard King, owner of the Crown Regency Group of Hotels, was eating with his employees as well as participants and guests to the closing ceremony of the wellness training for Vital C when the gunman walked in the shot him several times. The event was held inside the Vital C Building on Sobrecary St.
The business community in Cebu said it was saddened by King’s death and asked the police to prioritize the resolution of the case. Police formed a special task force to investigate the shooting and identify and arrest the people behind the businessman’s death.
Four suspects, including a police official, were arrested in late June for their involvement in King’s slay.
Stories about Richard King’s killing:
- Cebu Daily News: Businessman Richard King shot dead in Davao City
- Sun.Star Cebu: King shot dead in Davao City
- Sun.Star Cebu: Business community seeks justice for King
- Philippine Daily Inquirer: Slain businessman Richard King laid to rest
- Sun.Star Cebu: Reward to find King’s killer raised to P1.3 million
- Sun.Star Cebu: Police, NBI 7 check suspects in King’s slay
- Philippine Daily Inquirer: Davao City police official charged with murder in court for Richard King’s slay
- Sun.Star Cebu: Richard King murder ‘solved’