MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday evening, January 13, ordered Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to take over the Philippine National Police's (PNP) procurement, saying he intended to ban the police from buying its own equipment.
Duterte made the statement about the police in a speech before soldiers.
The President spent time with the Philippine Marine Corps on the day Taal Volcano erupted, conferring awards on troops involved in the Marawi siege two years ago and leading the turnover of equipment and firearms.
"Do not allow the police to procure. Ang opisina mo na ang mag-procure...instead na ibigay mo doon sa pulis na... (Your office will procure...instead of giving it to the police who are...)" Duterte said, referring to Año.
"Tannggalin mo ang procurement. Hindi na mag procure ang pulis. Si Año na ang mag-procure sa inyo (They can no longer procure. The police can no longer procure. Año will be the one to procure for you)," he added.
Before issuing the order, Duterte riled against the police's supposed overprice procurement of traffic radars. He said he no longer wanted the police to handle its own procurementt after receiving information they had purchased traffic radars priced at P950,000 each.
"It's just stupid kasi yung sa (because the radars in) Davao [are] just P10,000," he said.
Can Duterte strip the PNP of its procurement powers? While Duterte ordered Año to handle the PNP's procurement, it is unclear how the President thinks this would work. The PNP has its own procurement rules and systems specified by law.
A legal framework is important since the PNP receives the bulk of the budget of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which is one of the government’s departments that gets the largest share of Filipinos’ taxes.
Duterte's remarks hit the heart of the PNP's procurement system, which has been subject of several questionable deals in the last few years. Among these include a recent P5-million extortion case which has delayed the purchase of thousands of body cameras, initially promised to be rolled out in 2018.
In November 2019, PNP officer-in-charge Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa – who was then the PNP's bids and awards committee chairman under the leadership of former police chief and now senator Ronald dela Rosa – dismissed 3 procurement police officials supposedly involved in the case.
The body cameras are considered the hallmark policy of the PNP in its promise to lessen abuses in the Duterte administration's anti-illegal drug campaign.
Monday's verbal order is also Duterte's latest against the PNP. In December last year, the President directed Año to “handle” the police force.
The PNP is currently led by Gamboa only in an acting capacity, following the early retirement of Oscar Albayalde retired in November last year.
Albayalde's departure came after he was linked to the "ninja cops" corruption scandal.
In a media interview on Tuesday, January 14, Senator Panfilo Lacson said that the President could not be blamed for his latest action.
“The President has all the reason to feel aggrieved because he’s always been generous with the PNP when it comes to support, equipment, even salary, allowances. He gives everything,” said Lacson, a former top cop.
He said that the authority of the PNP to procure should be removed pending a probe, as long as it does not violate the procurement law.
Lacson said that Año taking over PNP procurement is not just because of his function as interior affairs secretary, but as an ex-offio chairman of the National Police Commission.
“Kasi kung may ganoong misbehavior when it involves public funds, dapat lang talaga alisin ang authority. Besides, in his (Año) capacity as chairman of Napolcom, ang SILG may supervision over the PNP,” the senator.
(If there is such misbehavior, when it involves public funds, their authority must be removed rightly so. Besides, in his capacity as chairman of Napolcom, the SILG has supervision over PNP.) – With a report from Aika Rey/Rappler.com