PNP surgery action, FVR-style

THIRD EYE - Ramon J. Farolan - The Philippine Star

(First of two parts)

Just a few days after the New Year fiasco at the NAIA, Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos dropped another New Year bombshell, this time calling on high-ranking PNP officials to submit their courtesy resignations from the service. While it was in the form of an “appeal,” he nevertheless recognized the radical method that was needed to root out the so-called “ninja” cops who were involved in the illegal drug trade and were tarnishing the reputation of the entire institution.

Many years ago, the PNP had a different problem. Let me refresh our memories.

It was on Valentine’s Day 30 years ago that president Fidel V. Ramos launched his program to rid the PNP of scalawags. A two-day National Summit on Peace and Order was being held at the PICC in the wake of continuing kidnap-for-ransom activities directed principally against wealthy Filipino-Chinese personalities. Earlier a young student, Charlene Sy, had been kidnapped and in a bungled rescue attempt by police authorities, she was killed in a shootout along with members of a criminal gang. Even the Japanese envoy at that time, Hirokazu Arai, called on the government to ensure the safety of Japanese businessmen if more investments into the country were to be realized. The summit, which was attended by over 500 delegates representing the five pillars of our criminal justice system – the law enforcers, prosecutors, court personnel, correctional administrators and the community at large – had been convened in an attempt find solutions to the country’s peace and order problems.

At the closing session of the summit, some 10,000 rallyists belonging to two private organizations, the Citizens Action Against Crime (CAAC) and the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO), converged at the PICC and presented to president Ramos a joint, two-page manifesto urging the president to be more decisive in purging the ranks of the police and the judiciary. The open letter was handed to the president by Mrs. Leina Alcantara-Sy, mother of the slain kidnap victim Charlene Sy. The letter declared that “we need action now.”

Acting promptly on this and other similar recommendations of the summit, president Ramos issued a memorandum to DILG secretary Rafael Alunan, which read: “In connection with the key resolution presented at the closing ceremony at the National Summit on Peace and Order, it is my desire that PNP officers from the rank of senior superintendent (full colonel) and above, who are eligible for retirement, submit on a voluntary basis, their applications for retirement starting this date, Feb. 18, for action by the president.” He added that “priority for processing should be given to officers in the floating category.” He also made it clear that “this was a directive, not a request.”

The following Monday, Feb. 22, he met with 239 generals and colonels for a five-hour, closed door session in Camp Crame. In a no-holds-barred meeting, the reorganization issue was thoroughly discussed with suggestions emanating from the assembled officers on how best to implement the process. It was agreed that a “Committee of Elders” consisting of eight retired and respected constabulary/INP officers, with DILG secretary Alunan as chairman, would review and process all the retirement applications for final approval by the president. Recommendations for membership in the committee were made by the officers gathered that evening and in the end, the following were named to the review body: 1) secretary of national defense Renato De Villa, a former PNP and AFP chief; 2) Brig. General Cicero Campos, president of the Public Safety College of the department; 3) Brig. General Ernesto Gidaya, undersecretary of national defense and former PMA superintendent; 4) Maj. General Alexander Aguirre, former CAPCOM commander and deputy chief of staff, AFP; 5) Police Brig. General Vicente Vinarao, former chief, Criminal Investigation Service; 6) Police Brig. General James Barbers, former superintendent, Western Police District; 7) Police Brig. General Edgar Dula Torres, former chief, Northern Police District and 8) Brig. General Levy Malto, my classmate of PMA Class 1956 and former chief, Constabulary Support Command. The review body was given 45 working days to finish the job.

The committee first received a list of officers covered by the order of the president. From an initial high of about 250, the list was finally whittled down to roughly 184, discarding those who had earlier retired, were already separated or deceased or were not yet eligible for retirement. Ten officers, including eight colonels and two generals, refused to submit their retirement applications. All the pertinent records of these officers, their summary of information (SOIs), as well as relevant files from the National Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence Service-Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Inspector General, Constabulary Intelligence, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan were collated and placed in a thick folder for each member of the committee to go through minutely. A data sheet that provided at a quick glance the basic profile of the officer was also provided the members so as to assist them in their work.

Next, the committee discussed possible criteria to be used by the group as a guide in their deliberations. After lengthy exchanges on the matter, they finally agreed on the following: 1) integrity; 2) leadership and management potential; 3) performance; 4) loyalty to the Constitution and 5) physical and mental fitness. Now the committee was ready for the more substantive part of their work, a task that carried life and death powers over the officers whose fates were suddenly in their hands.    To be continued

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