BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR and RAYMOND AFRICA
PRESIDENT Duterte has cancelled the PNP’s authority to procure any equipment amid the discovery of a planned overpriced acquisition of traffic radar paraphernalia.
The President tasked Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to take over future equipment purchases of the police force.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said investigations on the planned purchase of the overpriced equipment are forthcoming.
Duterte was irked with the PNP’s plan to acquire speed guns priced at P950,000 per unit, which was one of the issues discussed during a recent command conference attended by the PNP in Malacañang.
The President found the cost per unit mentioned by the PNP as “abominable,” noting that the traffic radar equipment recently acquired by the Davao City government cost only P10,000 per unit.
Duterte said the PNP leadership is not barred from engaging in any procurement activities.
“I removed the power of the PNP to procure equipment… si Gen. Año na ang mag (procure), his office. I will task him to do the procurement and I expect no corruption (Gen. Año’s office will now be in-charge. I will task him to do the procurement and I expect no corruption),” Duterte said.
NOT YET FINAL
The PNP said the planned allegedly overpriced acquisition of speed guns was not yet final since it was presented to Duterte during their first command conference for this year.
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said police officials presented to Duterte the PNP’s wish list of equipment, including the “micro digital camera laser system” which Banac said could cost around P950,000 each.
“Hindi ‘yun ang tinutukoy natin na ordinary speed gun na maaaring nagkakahalaga ng P10,000. Ang proposal ng PNP ay isang micro digiral camera laser system at ang halaga nito ay hindi ‘yun ang final amount dahil hindi pa naman ito dumaan sa bidding, wala pang submission ng bids and proponents.
‘Yun lang ay naipresent nang maaga or hilaw pa ang presentation, nilabas agad sa Pangulo, nagkaroon ng misunderstanding (The speed gun we are referring to is not the ordinary one which can be bought for around P10,000 each. What we have in our proposal is the micro digital camera laser system and its price which was mentioned in the presentation is not yet final because this has yet to undergo the bidding process, there was no submission of bids and proponents. The proposal is not yet final. The problem is that the proposal was prematurely presented to the President so there was a misunderstanding),” Banac said.
Banac said the PNP has apologized to the President for the misunderstanding and has submitted their explanation to Año.
He assured Malacañang and the public that there was no irregularity in the proposal as the PNP has a 98 percent absorptive capacity in its procurement the past three years.
Banac said the PNP will abide by the President’s decision to cancel their procurement functions but clarified that this will only be for big ticket items.
Prior this case, the President has likewise directed Año to oversee the police force as he has yet to choose a new chief of the PNP. He ordered the DILG chief to in December to address alleged corruption activities in the organization.
In 2019, three police officials were dismissed for an alleged P5-million extortion case in connection with the purchase of body cameras for the police.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, said the President’s “absence of trust” in the PNP is a serious matter especially at this time that the commander-in-chief has yet to name the replacement of retired Gen. Oscar Albayalde who stepped down as PNP chief last October 13 after he was linked to the “ninja cops” scandal.
The PNP is now run by Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, the deputy PNP chief for administration, in his capacity as officer-in-charge.
Days after Albayalde stepped down, Año endorsed three names as possible replacement: Gamboa, the PNP’s number two man; Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan, the deputy PNP chief for operations (number three man); and Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, the chief directorial staff (number four man).
“I think kapag ganyan na pinapakita ang displeasure, not only displeasure, not only lack of trust but absence of trust, I think what the President is waiting for right now is to hear from the more senior officers to just volunteer to opt for early retirement to give the President the free hand to choose, magkaroon ng (so there will be) deep selection,” Lacson said.
Lacson said the President’s decision to expand the list of candidates down to one-star police general as the next PNP chief indicated he was not happy and satisfied with the senior officers.
“So I think they should think it over kung ganito ang gesture na pinapakita ng Presidente, ng kanilang boss, baka naghihintay na lang ang Pangulo na mag-volunteer na lang ang top-ranking na sige, Sir mag-tender kami ng either resignation or early retirement. Anyway hindi na rin apektado ang kanilang pension kung few months na lang sila sa serbisyo. At pag 3-star ka na, ang pension mo 4-star na rin, ‘yan na maximum, wala nang pension na 5-star.
(So I think they should seriously consider the gestures of the President. Maybe the President, who is their boss, is just waiting for the senior officers to volunteer ,‘Okay sir, we will just tender either our resignation or early retirement.’ Anyway, their pensions will not be affected anymore with them with a few more months in service. If you retire as a three-star general, your pension will be equal to a four-star general because that is the maximum rank for policemen. There is no pension equivalent to a five-star general),” he added.
Lacson said he empathizes with the President in stripping the procurement powers of the PNP since the Chief Executive has been frustrated as he has always been supportive of the uniformed services.
“We cannot blame the President to feel that way. Regarding the legality of withdrawing, I think the President can always do that as long as RA 9184, the procurement law, will not be violated. And rightly so kasi kung may ganoong misbehavior when it involves public funds, dapat lang talaga alisin ang authority (And rightly so because if there are misbehaviors. When it involves public funds, it is proper to remove them the authority),” he also said.
He said the PNP should focus on punitive measures rather than concentrate on ways to prevent procurement irregularities now that Congress has allotted P2 billion a year for the PNP for its capability enhancement programs.