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.
NOT JUST LBC. This Western Union outlet was also robbed in the spate of crimes that hit shops like these in Cebu last year. (Photo by Allan Tangcawan)
Stories on the LBC robberies:
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.
Police go over the vehicle lawyer Noel Archival was riding when he was ambushed and killed in Dalaguete. (Photo by Mark Luzano)
Stories on the killing of lawyer Noel Archival:
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.
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.
PETITION. Heritage interpreter Balbino Guerrero started an online petition to stop the cutting of the trees.
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:
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.
Benito Tiamzon (center) and Wilma Austria-Tiamzon (front) during one a court hearing. The top officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines were arrested in a mountain village in Aloguinsan on March 22, 2014. (Photo taken from the Free Tiamzons Facebook Page)
Stories about their arrest:
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.
Councilor Roberto Cabarrubias and Mayor Michael Rama during the distribution of self help kits last November 23 in Barangay Basak Pardo. (Photo taken from the Facebook Page of Councilor Roberto Cabarrubias)
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:
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:
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.
SPREADING ON SOCIAL MEDIA. A mother posted this photo of her newborn child on Facebook with a pacifier taped to her mouth while confined at the Cebu Puericulture Center and Maternity House (CPCMH).
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:
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.
APOLOGY. The letter written by Fr. Romeo Obach to apologize to an unwed mother he scolded when he baptized her child.
Stories on the incident:
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.
Tropical storm Seniang killed 53 people as it swept across the Visayas and Mindanao from December 29-30 and destroyed the Dumlog Bridge in Sibonga, Cebu. (Photo by Allan Tangcawan)
Stories of the 2 storms:
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.
DRUG RAID. Suspects are rounded up in a drug raid in Barrio Luz. The fight against drugs was one of the biggest news stories last year with many policemen getting killed in the campaign. (Photo by Allan Tangcawan)
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:
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.
KILLED. Sun.Star Cebu’s front page story on the killing of Richard King. (Taken from Sun.Star Facebook Page)
Stories about Richard King’s killing: