CEBU CITY – “We will be eternally thankful and I hope your gesture of goodwill will not be forgotten by the people. Thank you is an understatement.”
This was the statement of City Mayor Edgardo Labella as he bade goodbye to the 151 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers, who were deployed in the city to help enforce community quarantine protocols.
The SAF commandos sailed back to the National Capitol Region (NCR) yesterday, ending more than a month’s stint in the city.
Before heading back to NCR aboard a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel, the SAF troopers were given citations in an early morning send-off ceremony at the Tisa National High School gymnasium.
In his speech, Labella credited the presence of SAF in lowering the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the city.
“We are also happy to note that no one among the 151 SAF troopers who got infected with COVID-19,” said Labella.
Aside from Labella, the send-off ceremony was also attended by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, the overseer of the Task Force COVID Cebu; Police Regional Office Central Visayas (PRO 7) Director Brig. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro, City Councilor Joel Garganera, the deputy chief implementer for the Interagency Task Force Emergency Operations Center (EOC); and Cimatu’s deputy, retired Maj. Gen. Mel Feliciano.
Cimatu, for his part, said the SAF commandoes displayed commendable performance since they arrived in the city last June 29.
“They showed professionalism. They showed discipline. I didn’t receive any complaint against you and for that, I congratulate you,” Cimatu told the SAF troopers.
Cimatu said he was hoping that their stint in the city will help the SAF troopers in their next assignment.
“I am just guessing but I think you are needed in NCR. It is better to send personnel like you in NCR because you already have the experience in terms of enforcement quarantine protocols,” Cimatu said.
While the SAF troopers played a vital role in the lowering of COVID-19 cases, Cimatu believed that the cooperation of the public also contributed in the campaign against the deadly virus.
Cimatu said the Cebuanos were not actually hard-headed contrary to what President Duterte said in his public addresses.
“I don’t believe that they are hard-headed. They were not just given a chance to really understand what is happening. From an average of 300 cases a day, it is now down to 20 a day and that is an indication of the compliance of the people,” said Cimatu.
Police Maj. Rene Joy Mosquiza, team commander of the SAF troopers, said enforcing quarantine protocols was no easy task but that wasn’t the biggest challenge that they had to overcome.
“The challenge was how to keep our morale high because there were accusations that we were abusive. Those accusations were not true because we maintained professionalism, we observed maximum tolerance in carrying our job,” said Mosquiza.
Ferro, meanwhile, said the city still has enough personnel to ensure that quarantine protocols are strictly enforced despite the departure of the SAF troopers.
“We already have some innovations and we have already established our regional contact tracing center,” said Ferro.