Philippine National Police

Lacson names PNP general behind alleged misuse of NTF-ELCAC funds

Jairo Bolledo
Lacson names PNP general behind alleged misuse of NTF-ELCAC funds

LACSON vs PNP? Senator Ping Lacson alleges that Major General Rhodel Sermonia is the mastermind behind the alleged misuse of NTF-ELCAC funds.

Sermonia's photo courtesy of Philippine News Agency

Lacson tags Major General Rhodel Sermonia as the police officer behind the alleged misuse of anti-insurgency funds

Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief himself, named the PNP general allegedly behind the misuse of anti-insurgency funds. 

Ito, sasabihin ko na kung sino ‘yung in-charge diyan. Yung si Major General Rhodel Sermonia kasi siya ‘yung director for PCR (Police Community Relations). Siya ‘yung nag-iikot eh,” Lacson said in an interview with GMA’s DZBB on Sunday, August 8. 

(I will say who’s in charge of that. He’s Major General Rhodel Sermonia because he is the director of the Police Community Relations. He was the one who was making the rounds.)

On August 5, Lacson said he received reports that a so-called general instructed local police chiefs to conduct a supposed “census,” asking for the names, contact numbers, and addresses of barangay residents.

The former PNP chief-turned-senator said the action was questionable because the funds of National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) were supposed to be used for community development projects. 

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Meanwhile, the PNP “categorically and vehemently” denied that the police used the funds to conduct censuses in barangays. According to the police, they used the funds to launch projects that strengthened its relationship with the community and other sectors, as well as for intensified cleanliness policy. 

Lacson’s reservations

Lacson also added that he wanted to know what does “intensified cleanliness policy” mean. 

Alam mo, gusto kong malaman ano ba ‘yung sinasabing intensified cleanliness policy. Ano ‘yun? Nililinis daw nila ‘yung barangay,” Lacson said. 

(You know, I want to know what the intensified cleanliness policy means. What ‘s that? They say, barangays are being cleansed.)

The senator, who was also the chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, peace, unification and reconciliation, said that the funds being released by the NTF-ELCAC were for so-called communist-free barangays. 

Kaya nga sila nagkaroon ng konklusyon na okay itong mga cleared barangays namin, naclear na ng security forces, kailangan na ng development project dito, mga program,” Lacson added. 

(That’s why they had a conclusion that these cleared barangays were already cleared by security forces, they now need development projects and programs.)

Under the Barangay Development Fund of the NTF-ELCAC, barangays supposedly cleared of communist terrorist groups were given billions of funds as incentives. As of July 2021, the anti-insurgency task force has already released over P16 billion to 812 barangays. 

Duterte’s hometown, Davao City, got a lion’s share from the billions of funds.

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As part of PNP chief General Guillermo Eleazar’s thrusts, he relaunched an internal cleansing policy that seeks to purge the police ranks, as well as the community. Under the program, police will strengthen its ties with barangays and communities to counter insurgency and terrorism.

Who is Major General Sermonia?

According to Lacson, Sermonia already reached out to him. 

Bibigyan ko siya ng time para i-explain niya rin sa akin, ano ang ibig sabihin ng intensified cleanliness policy ng PNP (I will give him time to explain to me what this PNP’s intensified cleanliness policy means),” Lacson said. 

The PNP has yet to provide a statement on the alleged involvement of Sermonia in the gaffe. 

Sermonia currently serves as the chief of the PNP Directorate for Community Police Relations (DPCR). Under the PNP’s mandate, the DPCR is in charge of developing a “community and service oriented police organization” through ties with the community. 

Before his position as the DPCR chief, he served as the chief of PNP Central Luzon. 

In August 2020, Sermonia was sued by the San Antonio town Mayor Arvin Salonga in Nueva Ecija. Sermonia, who was then Central Luzon police chief, removed the San Antonio police chief from his post. The town mayor said due to Sermonia’s decision, the enforcement of local quarantine protocols in their town was disrupted. 

Shortly after Salonga filed complaints against Sermonia, in September 2020, the town mayor survived an assassination attempt. Salonga alleged that Sermonia was the mastermind behind the assassination attempt against him and his companions. – 

Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.