POLICE TAKE OVER TRAFFIC CONTROL: Legazpi PSO operation suspended; for re-evaluation over graft char
By Manuel T. Ugalde LEGAZPI CITY --- Personnel of the city police force have their hands full after City Mayor Noel Rosal since February 5, this year, ordered the temporary suspension of operation of the Legazpi City Public Safety Office (PSO) that rendered its 85 members—who are paid on services actually rendered -- out of their jobs for over a month now. Legazpi City Chief of Police Supt. Nilo Berdin rues about the sudden suspension of the city traffic assistance force that forced him to mobilize police trainees to handle traffic control and management in the city. Allegations of corruption and poor traffic management prompted Rosal to suspend PSO operation with no one from the 87 city traffic force retained, according to PSO head Menchu Ofracio. Rosal temporarily reassigned Ofracio as the city information officer. PSO members who asked not to be identified said Ofracio could have given Rosal inaccurate reports even at they claimed that not all PSO members were corrupt. PSO Legazpi was created in 2007 by virtue of a resolution seeking to address the burgeoning traffic problem in the city. The resolution also gave the local police the chance to concentrate on their main task of maintaining peace and order in the city amidst reports of crimes against property and cases of murder and robbery. Some three years ago, Legazpi was notoriously known as haven for carnappers with many motorcycles parked within the vicinity of city malls lost even at daytime to perpetrators. Carnapping incidents, however, suddenly came low after one suspect was arrested while he was about to flee with a motorcyle that he intended to carnap in broad daylight in nearby Daraga town. Police investigators were able to make the suspect unmask a Legazpi-based junk trader as buyer of stolen motorcycles, its parts and engines. The junk trader had earlier been arrested following a raid in his warehouse where large number of motorcycle parts and engines declared as junks were confiscated. A PSO member who claimed he has been in the traffic force for 12 years now said he was receiving P200 a day but has not been involved in any corruption scandal. “I hope the mayor would reconsider his decision not to rehire some of the 87 traffic force,” he added. According to Mayor Rosal, the city will continue to maintain the PSO unit may be restored following a close evaluation of applications who have to pass strict screening. Reports say most of the old PSO members were recommended by political allies, if not relatives. Rosal said it may take three to four months before the PSO will be back in operation with his clear instruction that only those who are fit physically and morally, meaning those who can resist corruption, should be recruited.