The word “bulay-og” hit the nail in the head, a fellow journalist said. He referred to my use of the Cebuano term in describing the seeming incompetence of the police force in Cebu City in solving two sensational crimes: the assassination of assistant fiscal Patrick Osorio and an Iranian student.
The Superbalita editorial was written after acting Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama told the local press that he wants the city’s police force to compare notes with their colleagues in neighboring Mandaue City. The Mandaue police took only a few days in solving two sensational crimes — the gory killing of call center agent Lynn Vi Ebarita and the textmate rape-slay of one Emily Nuneza.
It captured the public’s sentiment over police performance on the two recent sensational crimes.
Immediately after the editorial came out February 5, 2009, Cebu City Police Office Director Patrocinio Comendador called all his station commanders to attend a press conference. The press conference was held to convey the following messages:
- That they are not “bulay-og”
- That they have a lot of accomplishments
- That media should not try to demoralize the police
The reaction was such that even police beat reporters got cowed. The president of the defense press corps, who writes for Superbalita, even tried to apologize for the editorial.
The police reaction immediately triggered heated discussions in radio commentary programs and local coffee shops.
The next day, a brother who has friends with the police called me asking about the editorial and how it has gotten the ire of the city’s top police brass. Meanwhile, regional police chief Ronald Roderos came out in defense of Comendador.
The police reaction was bad crisis PR management.
Instead of acknowledging the sentiment, asking the public for patience as they have achieved considerable progress in the investigation, and reserving the press conference when they finally solve the cases, the local police went into a rampage against the editorial.
Instead of defending the articulation of a legitimate public sentiment, the defense press corp. apparently feared more the ire of their sources and losing the goodwill they have established.
Unfortunately for the police, until they actually solve the two sensational cases, they have maneuvered themselves into becoming a fixed target for more criticisms.