MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima said he allowed contractors to build – for free – his new official residence in Camp Crame, Quezon City, and claimed he did not see anything wrong with it.
Grilled by two senators at a Senate hearing Tuesday, September 30, Purisima identified the “donors” as Carlos Gonzales of ULTICON Builders, Alexander Lopez of Pacific Concrete Corporation, and Christopher Pastrana of CAPP Industries.
The house, according to the PNP and other supporting documents, costs around P 12 million (about $266,000*).
But the contractors supposedly built the so-called “White House” – the subject of a plunder complaint filed against Purisima before the Ombudsman – at no cost to the PNP.
Purisima said the contractors had no projects with the PNP, anyway.
But Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee that invited Purisima, said: “The contractors aren’t just doing this out of the goodness of their heart. As long as you’re in office, alam nilang makikinabang sila (they know they can benefit).”
Poe said there was nothing wrong with government agencies accepting donations, but added proper processes need to be followed.
Late deed of donation
Based on documents obtained by Poe’s office, the “White House” was donated in May 2013 and turned over by December the same year.
The deed of donation, however, was only issued in September this year – months after the house first made headlines. (READ: Who funded the PNP chief’s ‘White House?’)
In a previous statement, the PNP said “there was no urgency at the start, but due to the controversies that were raised, we had to expedite the processing of the Deed of Donation to comply with the auditing requirements.”
The deed was only signed and executed “after full completion of the Chief PNP quarters’ finishing touches and architectural improvements, and was largely dependent on the availability of donors.”
Purisima told the Senate he had spent on some of the furnishings inside the house.
“Hindi ‘nyo po naisip na i-execute muna ‘yung deed of donation? (Didn’t you think of getting a deed of donation first?)” asked Poe.
To this, Purisima replied, “Hindi po namin naisip….Pagpasensiyahan ‘nyo na, your Honor (It did not cross our mind. We seek your understanding, your Honor).”
After the house was first exposed this year, the PNP’s spokesman at the time, Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, said that the funds for the construction were donated by Purisima’s fellow Masons.
The old “White House” was damaged in the 2009 Ondoy floods in Metro Manila.
Until Tuesday’s hearing, Purisima refused to identify the donors. He described the contractors as his friends, and said they agreed to reveal their names after Purisima convinced them.
Senator Sergio Osmeña III questioned why Purisima prioritized the construction of the “White House” over other buildings, such as a new hospital for the PNP.
“Did you not tell the donors: thank you for you kindness but can you donate to the PNP hospital first?” asked Osmeña.
“We have a tertiary hospital,” Purisima answered.
Osmeña retorted, “We know. The previous Senate president is there,” referring to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who is detained at the PNP hospital for his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Purisima claimed the funds used to construct the “White House” never went through him, and that the donors followed a “design and build scheme.”
“Eh kung dog house ang itinayo nila…tatanggapin ninyo? (If they built you a dog house, would you accept it?)” asked Osmeña.
The police chief added he only saw a draft of the house’s design and did not know its estimated cost, prompting Osmeña to say, “I don’t believe you.”
‘Only saving grace’
Poe pressed Purisima on why his friends donated the house in the first place. Purisima stuck to previous statements and said they suggested to construct a new house instead of renovating the old, damaged one.
The police chief emphasized he would not be the sole beneficiary of the new house. Once he retired, he said, succeeding police chiefs would be able to live there as well.
“That’s a point well taken. In fact, it’s your only saving grace,” said Poe.
Osmeña further tested Purisima, asking him what he would do should the friends of other police officials – such as the PNP’s second in command or regional and provincial chiefs – offer to donate official residences as well.
Purisima said he would approve those donations, “so long as the PNP benefits.”
Poe also questioned one of Purisima’s declared assets – a Toyota Land Cruiser he bought in 2013 for P1.5 ($33,406*) million. “Marami po ‘atang magkaka-interes dito (It seems that a lot are interested in this),” said Poe.
Based on automotive websites, a brand new Land Cruiser bought in 2013 would cost at least P3 million ($66,812). Purisima said he got it from a dealer in Pampanga who gave him a huge discount.
Poe questioned the deal. “You should check why the discount was given. Wala namang deal sa PNP ito (Are you sure they don’t have a deal with the PNP)?”
The police chief said no contracts were given to the car dealer in exchange for the discount, but Poe said government officials should extra care when it comes to getting favors.
“Dapat mag-ingat kasi ang mga miyembro ng gobyerno ‘pag may nagbibigay ng discount sa iyo…bagama’t malaking discount iyon…iisipin mo anong kapalit nito? Baka kasi maging ehemplo sa mas nakakabatang pulis na ay, puwede palang gamitin ang aking pakikipagkaibigan o ang aking tanggapan para magkaroon ng ganoong klaseng benepisyo,” she told reporters after the hearing.
(Government officials should be careful about accepting things like discounts. You have to think: What’s the catch? Younger police officers might think that it’s okay to use friendship or their office to get those kinds of privileges.) – Rappler.com
*$1 = P44.8