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MANILA, Philippines – Just as the Christmas season – and preparations for two major events – swing into full gear, the Philippine National Police (PNP) finds itself in a conundrum: what happens when your chief is suspended?
“The PNP finds itself in a unique situation that has never happened before with the suspension of its Director General,” said Interior Secretary and National Police Commission (Napolcom) chairman Manuel Roxas II in a Friday, December 12 news briefing at the PNP headquarters Camp Crame.
Asked if replacing PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima was possible, Roxas said, “Everything is a possibility.”
He added: “I’m not going to engage in speculation. These are all possibilities.”
Roxas had just led a meeting with top PNP officers to discuss the repercussion of Purisima’s 6-month preventive suspension over an alleged anomalous deal between the police force and courier company Werfast.
“We’re studying the situation and I will meet with President Benigno Aquino III when he comes back from South Korea. The final decision will be made in due time,” Roxas told reporters.
The suspension is the latest in a series of controversies surrounding the embattled PNP chief. He has several cases pending against him before the Ombudsman: one for allegedly underdeclaring a Nueva Ecija property, and another for reportedly accepting donations to construct his new official residence inside Crame.
Purisima has also been criticized for accepting a huge discount for a 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser and for borrowing a different bulletproof Land Cruiser from his friends. (READ: More questions on PNP chief’s ‘White House,’ discounted car)
Despite wave after wave of controversy, Purisima seemed unfazed; his staunchest defender, after all, is no less than the President. (READ: Aquino defends Purisima: He is not luxurious or greedy)
Aquino, however, has yet to speak publicly about Purisima since the suspension order was announced.
Echoing his earlier statements, Roxas assured the public that the PNP’s work would continue even if its chief is suspended. With Purisima temporarily gone, Deputy Director for Operations Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina heads the 150,00-strong police force.
As OIC, Roxas said Espina has “full powers” – he can reassign PNP officials as deemed necessary.
But several government officials, including Roxas’ political ally Senate President Franklin Drilon, have argued that an OIC would not be enough to handle the PNP’s daily operations on top of two high-profile events: the visit of Pope Francis in January and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial Meetings.
In a statement, Drilon urged the President to “decide on the fate” of Purisima immediately.
Purisima, appointed PNP chief in 2012, is not due to retire until November 2015.
Espina, meanwhile, is due for retirement by July 2015 or just around the same time the preventive suspension order against Purisima ends. – Rappler.com