Photo by Mark Cristino/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – In an unprecedented move, the Ombudsman on Tuesday, June 30, ordered the dismissal of two police generals with close ties to President Benigno Aquino III for an allegedly dubious deal in the Philippine National Police Civil Security Group (CSG) and the Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO).
Police Director General Alan Purisima, resigned chief of the PNP, and Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta, former police chief of Central Luzon, were ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman.
Purisima and Petrasanta served as aides of the late President Corazon Aquino, mother of President Aquino.
The dismissal of Purisima, Petrasanta, and the other officials was based on two separate complaints filed in 2014 by Glenn Gerard Ricafranca and the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices' Fact-Finding Investigation Bureau over a deal inked between the PNP FEO and Werfast, a courier company tapped to deliver firearms licenses cards.
According to the Ombudsman, the officers in the case will also lose their retirement benefits, be barred from taking civil service examinations, and be forever barred from being employed by the government.
The police officials and representatives of Werfast may also be charged criminally for violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act pending preliminary investigation, the Ombudsman said.
Also dismissed are the following officers:
Werfast was tapped by the FEO to deliver firearms licenses, as part of the PNP's efforts to "centralize" the process and cut down on corruption in the police force's highest-earning office.
Come 2014, gun owners complained about late and sometimes, non-existent deliveries. It was later revealed that Werfast's company president was Ireno Bacolod, former chief of the PNP's Civil Security Group, (CSG) which oversees the FEO.
Around the time the deal was signed, Purisima was the CSG's chief of directorial staff and Bacolod was his superior. Bacolod has since denied any wrong-doing in securing Werfast's services.
Petrasanta was also FEO chief during the time Werfast was in business with the PNP.
In a statement, the Ombudsman said that the PNP FEO entered into a deal with Werfast "without any procurement, accreditation and qualification process." It was Petrasanta, as technical working group chairman, who recommended that the sending of permits be solely Werfast's job.
The memorandum of agreement between the FEO and Werfast was notarized in September 2011, despite the legal opinion of the PNP's own Legal Service that the "MOA should be treated either as an unsolicited proposal or a request for accreditation, the engagement of a courier service should not be mandatory but optional, the service provider should not be exclusively Werfast, a set of accreditation rules should be formulated, and an accreditation board should be created."
It was Meneses, then chief of the CSG, who created the "FEO Courier Services Accreditation Board (FEO CSAB)" in November 2012. The board then was composed of Petrasanta, Parreño, Acierto, Reyes, Fabia, Calixto, Bautista, Tuazon and Zapata.
By February 2013, Meneses issued a memorandum saying the delivery of licenses be made mandatory and that Werfast was accredited. The Ombudsman found out that the FEO CSAB only accredited Werfast in April of 2013, or almost 2 months after Meneses' memorandum.
"The Consolidated Decision found that Werfast was a not a registered corporation at the time of the signing of the MOA in May 2011, as it was incorporated only in August 2011 with a measly capitalization of only P65,000.00," the Ombudsman noted.
Purisima singled out
The Ombudsman, in their statement, singled out Purisima who, they said, "knew what he was doing in signing the Meneses Memorandum" and that "exerted pressure and coercion over his subordinates on behalf of Werfast."
The Ombudsman spared Meneses for lack of jurisdiction. "The administrative case against Meneses was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, it appearing that Meneses retired from government service before the case was filed," the statement explained.
The former PNP chief is among Aquino’s closest friends. Before he was appointed head of the 150,000-strong PNP, Purisima was part of the President Security Group (PSG) and was tasked to guard the young Aquino, son of former president Corazon Aquino.
Purisima, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1981, was appointed PNP chief in late 2012. He enjoyed a relatively quiet term until early 2014, when news of the Werfast deal first became public.
Despite all the controversies then, Aquino stood by Purisima and defended his favorite cop from allegations of corruption.
But the last straw came when more than 60 people, 44 of them members of the PNP’s Special Action Force (SAF), died in a botched police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Purisima – despite being suspended – played a key role in the operation, an allegation Purisima denied.
It was later revealed that Purisima sat in briefings leading up to the controversial “Oplan Exodus,” including one with the President. Purisima also received and relayed information – some of them erroneous – on the day of the operation itself. The police general was also in communication with Aquino on the day of the carnage.
Aquino said then of Purisima’s resignation: “For this reason, perhaps you will understand why I find it painful to see him leave the service under these circumstances. I have accepted, effective immediately, the resignation of General Purisima. I thank him for his many years of service prior to this tragedy.”
Petrasanta’s story is similar to that of Purisima’s.
The former Central Luzon police chief, a graduate of PMA Class of 1984, was a member of the PSG and was assigned to guard the Aquino family.
His ties go beyond the President, sources from the PNP told Rappler. He was close to none other than Cory Aquino herself.
It was for this reason that many in the PNP viewed him as the obvious successor to Purisima, who was scheduled to retire in November 2015 yet.
Despite Petrasanta’s preventive suspension in December 2014, police officials assumed that he would still be appointed the next chief of the PNP, an institution that has been without an acting or full-time head for 6 months. (READ: Who will Aquino pick as PNP chief?)
The PNP is currently headed by Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, Deputy Chief for Administration and Office-in-Charge of the PNP. Espina, however, is set to retire on July 19, 2015, when he turns 56, the mandatory age of retirement.
Aquino had previously asked the public for patience, as he goes through the process of picking the next chief of the police force. The President said that he needed time to sift through the lies and truths, given the “abundance of mudslinging” among officers in the police force.
Other contenders for the PNP chief vacancy include the PNP’s number 3 man, Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr, Deputy Chief for Operations; Directorate for Operations chief Director Ricardo Marquez; Chief of Directorial Staff Deputy Director General Danilo Constantino; Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Director Benjamin Magalong; and Directorate for Logistics chief Director Juanito Vaño Jr.
Grace Poe welcomes decision
Senator Grace Poe, whose committee investigated Purisima's acts as PNP chief, said the Ombudsman's decision must be respected.
She also said the removal of Purisima from service is an opportunity to put at the helm of the PNP an officer who will inspire the uniformed men.
"Kailangan nating respetuhin ang desisyon ng Ombudsman. Sila ang inatasan ng Saligang Batas na sumuri sa tibay ng ebidensya at magpataw ng karampatang parusa sa mga lingkod bayan na lumalabag sa Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act," she said.
(We have to respect the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman. They are the ones tasked by the Constitution to assess and weigh the evidence and impose the appropriate punishment on public servants who violate the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.)
"Pagkakataon na ngayon na magtalaga ng isang PNP chief na magsisimbulo ng tapat at magaling na liderato at magbibigay ng kaayusan at inspirasyon sa PNP," the senator added.
(This is the chance to appoint a PNP chief who will symbolize honest and capable leadership, at will instill order and inspiration within the PNP.) – Rappler.com