Officer who led Delfin Lee arrest ‘relieved’

But PNP chief says it's a 'promotion' to be moving him to Cebu

MOVED. Barely a week after the arrest of wanted businessman Delfin Lee, Senior Supt Conrad Capa is "relieved" and reassigned to the Cebu Regional Office. Photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – He insisted he was happy, but his eyes and demeanor spoke volumes about how he really felt.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, March 13, former Task Force Tugis head Senior Superintendent Conrad Capa could not hide his disappointment. Capa was relieved of his post in the task force barely a week after the Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested controversial businessman Delfin Lee.

Capa would have to pack his bags for a post in Cebu as PNP Deputy Regional Director for Operations, a “promotion” that he apparently did not expect.

Wala pang isang linggo e tapos kagabi, natanggap ko ‘yung orders ko. Anong nangyari? Hindi ko alam….Hindi pa tapos ang final report, na-relieve na ako,” he said. (It’s been barely a week after the arrest but last night I got my orders. What happened? I don’t know….I was relieved even before I could finish the final report.) 

Chief PNP Director General Alan Purisima announced Capa’s relief from the task force in a press conference that day.  He said Capa was “long overdue” for a promotion.

“The reason for relief is a promotion. He has to occupy a position where he can be projected as general in the future,” Purisima said.

Capa hesitated for a few seconds before acknowledging the promotion as a “reward,” when asked by reporters.

Capa said he was surprised by the public announcement of his relief and reassignment. PNP Spokesman Chief Superintendent Theodore Sindac informed reporters about Capa’s move to Cebu minutes before a scheduled press conference with Purisima. 

As Deputy Regional Director for Operations, Capa is one rank away from being a star officer. “When I go to Cebu, I will be number 3 [in the regional office]. Then I will wait until the number 2 goes somewhere or gets promoted again,” he said.

Task Force Tugis is a special group directly under the Office of the Chief PNP, and is not part of the PNP’s “table of organization,” said Capa. The Task Force’s sole goal is to apprehend the PNP’s “most wanted,” and Lee is its first arrest since it was established mid-2013. 

The task force has 4 more people to run after: former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, former Coron mayor Mario Reyes, retired Army Major General Jovito Palparan, and former Dinagat representative Ruben Ecleo. 

Frustration, low morale?

The move to Cebu was something that took Capa by surprise. Asked if he was demoralized, Capa shook his head. “[I’m] frustrated, but that’s just me,” he said.

Maganda yung momentum. ‘Yung mga bata ko parang excited. Kasi ‘yung mga team, meron silang friendly competition. Inspired, in other words,” Capa added. (We had the momentum, my operatives were excited. It’s because the teams have friendly competition.)

Capa refused to answer when pressed on why he felt frustrated, only saying that “it’s personal.”

Capa and Purisima go a long way. According to Capa, he worked with Purisima in Region 3 and the National Capital Region.

I think siguro ito yung plinano niya sa akin, etong road na ito,” said Capa, referring to his sudden promotion. (Maybe this is Purisima’s plan for me, this road I’m taking.)

Purisima earlier told reporters that the Task Force would function perfectly with or without Capa. “Capa is not Task Force Tugis,” said Purisima.

Capa, who has years of experience in intelligence operations, belittled speculation that Purisima was undermining his role in the capture of Lee. “Of course, mas magaling ‘yung darating dito. Magfufunction naman ito,” Capa said. (There will be better people to head the Task Force. It will continue to function.)

Capa and Purisima were expected to meet later that day.

Why Cebu?

Capa’s move to Cebu is surrounded by speculation. Was it because of the operation on Lee?

The arrest of Lee has its own share of controversy. Lee’s lawyers insist the arrest and subsequent detention was “illegal” based on a November 2013 ruling by the Court of Appeals. The PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group’s certification of Lee’s “delisting” from the PNP’s most wanted also muddled the issue. 

Purisima, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, and the Justice Department have since defended the legality of Lee’s arrest. (READ: PNP, Delfin Lee and 2 conflicting letters)

In his interview with reporters, Capa also denied that he leaked the conversation between Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali and Purisima on the same night Lee was arrested.

Hindi ko ho alam yung tawag na iyon e. Noong gabi na iyon, nasa dinner si Gen Purisima sa Makati. ‘Yung mga tawag, hindi ko alam,” he said, adding that he told Purisima about the arrest of Lee after the Makati dinner. (I don’t know about the call. That night, Gen Purisima was in Makati for a dinner. I knew nothing about that call.)

Purisima told reporters at the press conference that Umali merely asked him if Lee still had a standing warrant of arrest. The call didn’t even last a minute, Purisima said.

Speculation aside, Capa said his move to Cebu is practically set in stone. He brushed aside concerns that the task force’s morale would be affected following his sudden reassignment.

“Leaders come and go so they’ll be fine,” he said.

Although visibly frustrated, the relieved task force head cracked a joke towards the end of his press conference. “Malay niyo, baka may Top 5 [most wanted] na nasa Cebu,” he said. (You never know, one of the Top 5 most wanted might be in Cebu.) –

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