By NINI B. CABAERO, Cebu SunStar, April 2, 2018
BISIKLETA IGLESIA. Members of the “Bisikleta Iglesia” team, led by Senior Inspector Jovito Labra (holding leaflets), get ready to conduct patrol operations around Cebu City on Tuesday (March 27, 2018). (Photo courtesy of the Cebu City Police Office)
Cebu, Philippines -- What was new about the Holy Week happened outside of churches and was conducted not by priests or the religious. What was new about last week’s activities on the culmination of Lent was police action that was unique from past movements to keep the public safe and the activities orderly.
Police personnel went out on bicycles to patrol areas where people were expected to flock as they marked Holy Week activities. Instead of handing out citations, police gave ice candy to commuters they stopped at checkpoints as a way to say “chill” or “keep cool.”
In Mandaue City, those arrested were given rosaries to help in their renewal this Eastertide. Such strategies by the police were unheard of in past schemes to keep order as people went home to spend the days with family or visited churches and religious spots from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday.
Last Maundy Thursday, 30 members of the Cebu City Police Office conducted their own “Bisikleta Iglesia” that meant going around churches on bicycles to check on the peace and order situation. “The thing about the bicycle is its speed. If we walk, we would take so much time and cover less space. If we patrol with vehicles, we would be too fast and not see what happens on the street. But if we pedal our bikes, we will have enough speed to cover large spaces but still see the things that happen around us and, of course, have fun doing our job of keeping people safe,” Senior Supt. Joel Doria, Cebu City Police Office chief, said in a SunStar Cebu report.
Police members also gave people fans and flyers with tips on how to stay safe in the summer. The fans carried photos and names of the 10 most wanted criminals in Central Visayas.
There were reports that police personnel in Tabuelan, Cebu, who were managing checkpoints gave away ice candies or ice drops to people they stopped. Just a way to tell them “stay cool.”
At the Mandaue City jail, those behind bars were provided with rosaries by the head of the police office. Reports said 141 persons were arrested for illegal drugs and gambling during the Holy Week. These are new, never-before-seen ways of policing. Not with swinging batons or hand on gun at the waist type.
But a softer, friendlier way of assuring the public. Law enforcement does not always have to be without smiles. The campaign to win hearts and minds allows the police to try out new ways to get the community to trust them. When a policeman approaches you, the first question on your mind is if you had committed something wrong. That usually places you on a defensive. But not with the ways adopted by the police last Holy Week.
Police officials in Cebu responsible for these new ways of policing should be credited for their creativity and sincerity to keep the police relevant and effective. The challenge now is on how to increase the momentum and the police’s chances of bringing to justice local drug lords, killers behind recent attacks, and other criminals.