MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe believes that Philippine National Police Chief Director General Alan Purisima should go on "administrative leave" pending the investigation of graft, plunder, and indirect bribery complaints against him.
Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, made the call at the budget hearing of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) at the Senate on Wednesday, September 24, a day after the charges were filed against Purisima.
The lady senator – who urged Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II to make the recommendation to President Benigno Aquino III – said that the charges against the PNP chief, whether true or false, tends to “drag down” the entire police force.
Addressing Roxas, Poe said, “I hope that at the very least, without saying that anybody is guilty, [Purisima's] administrative leave will send a good message, just like there are certain senators here who have to be suspended so that they don’t influence their office while their trial is going on.”
The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan had earlier ordered the suspension of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada as senators, over plunder and graft charges against them in connection with the pork barrel scam. The Senate has implemented the 90-day suspension orders.
On Monday, the Coalition of Filipino Consumers (CFC) filed a complaint alleging that Purisima was not entirely truthful in declaring his Nueva Ecija residence to be valued at a mere P3.75 million (about $70,000).
Purisima is also facing plunder and indirect bribery charges over his so-called "White House" inside Camp Crame, Quezon City, the official residence of the PNP chief, which was renovated at a cost P12 million (about $270,000*), supposedly from funds donated by his Mason friends.
At the budget hearing, Poe told Roxas that it is important to make Purisima go on administrative leave pending the investigation of the allegations, to protect the morale of the entire police force.
“I’d like to go back again to my appeal to you, being the head of the DILG – and I think that personally I know what you probably think about the situation, but as always you remain prudent – to make the strong recommendation to the President about the importance also [of] the confidence and the trust of the ones being led by the chief PNP,” the senator said.
She added, “I think that the institution itself is worth saving in terms of the morale of the police officers….I feel that in the case of the chief PNP, with all of the controversy, whether true or false, he is dragging down with him the name of the institution.”
Purisima was not at the budget hearing, as he is abroad on official business.
When Poe asked what specific recommendations Roxas, as DILG chief, can make to the President regarding the PNP leadership, the Cabinet official said it would not be fair to go deeper into the issue since Purisima was not at the hearing.
Roxas said in Filipino: “This is a sensitive matter. If you may, I would rather not get into this discussion because the person concerned is not here. I know that you’re a fair person and you wouldn’t want [to do] this without the proper procedure. It should be done properly.”
He added: “The point here is that it [the complaint] is already there and this process will eventually bear out the truth….It is being investigated by the Ombudsman. As a courtesy, the individual is not here.”
Poe replied that she and other senators “have extended him (Purisima) so much courtesy already” but he remained absent at the budget hearings concerning his own agency which he has a duty to be actively involved in.
“In this particular case, I believe that a leader should have a purpose higher than himself....I feel that it’s unfair to the PNP especially to the others if the topmost person is not even available to defend the institution during the budget hearing or to be able to articulate to us what the institution needs even not for himself, for the people that he is leading,” Poe said.
The senator had earlier chided Purisima for being a no-show at the last budget hearing at the Senate.
'Check PNP's SALN now'
Poe also told Roxas said that even with the charges against Purisima filed before the Ombudsman, the National Police Commission (Napolcom) can do its part by looking into the alleged disparities in the PNP chief's Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).
“I trust and I know also that you are very fair and that’s why it’s not very easy for us to make pronouncements, but in light of the disparities listed in the SALNs, I think it shouldn’t be too difficult if we really have the will to come up with a conclusion. I think this is your chance to prove that you are an independent body and you can conduct an investigation swiftly,” she said.
Poe said that the SALN is a “straightforward” document where one can see “what is manifestly disproportionate” and “can be investigated right away” by the Napolcom.
Responding to Poe’s questions on the controversial renovation done on the PNP chief’s official residence, Roxas said the cost is “roughly P20 million” and that he is awaiting Purisima’s list of donors.