The State shall establish and maintain one police force, which shall be national in scope and civilian in character, to be administered and controlled by a national police commission….
(Article 16 Section 6, 1987 Philippine Constitution)
The recent controversy over the role of personalities holding the reins of power in the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has been reduced to agawan ng papel, resulting in paralysis in its effective performance that runs counter to the daang matuwid (straight path) policy of President Aquino, in spite of the dedication to duty and sincerity of purpose by the late Secretary Jesse Robredo.
When Robredo was appointed interior and local government secretary, Rico Puno was named his undersecretary for peace and order. Puno was assigned to “handle” the affairs of the Philippine National Police (PNP), a power that has no basis in law under Republic Act No. 8551, which put into motion the constitutional provision creating the PNP.
Why? Because the law specifically mandates that Napolcom is the agency created under Section 13 of Republic Act No. 6975 as amended by Section 4 of RA 8551, for the purpose of effectively discharging the control, supervision and administration of the PNP as mandated by the Constitution.
Moreover, the law further states that Napolcom is merely attached to the DILG for policy and program coordination. The DILG chief is the ex-officio chair of the commission while one of the four regular commissioners shall be designated by the President as vice chair/executive officer and shall take over as acting chair in the absence or incapacity of the secretary.
The position of vice chair/executive officer may be given to any of the regular commissioners by the President, except to the commissioner representing law enforcement or the military.
On the other hand, RA 8551 provides for two undersecretaries in the DILG: One for local government and another for peace and order. The undersecretary for peace and order is a misnomer because the law specifies that the undersecretary for peace and order shall be in charge of the Bureau of Fire and the Jail Management and Penology Bureau (to the exclusion of the PNP).
Even the role of the DILG head is only as ex-officio chair of Napolcom, a collegial body, in its control and administration of the PNP. While the secretary exercises moral suasion over the commission, its day-to-day affairs, including the execution of its policies and programs as contained in its memorandum circulars and resolutions promulgated and approved by the majority vote of the regular members of the commission, are implemented through the vice chair/executive officer.
“Expressio unius est exclusio alterius!” which simply means that what is not included is excluded! There is nothing in the law that would allow the participation of any other official of the DILG in the affairs of the PNP except through the secretary in his capacity as ex-officio chair of Napolcom.
Hence, if somebody like Puno was to be allowed to handle or interfere with the affairs of the PNP, his position shall be that of a Napolcom commissioner and designated as vice chair and executive officer of the commission. Otherwise, only the DILG chief, as ex-officio chair, is legally authorized to exercise the powers of the Commission over the PNP.
It is worth mentioning that all actions of the PNP are under the control, supervision and administration of Napolcom, among which are (Section 5 paragraph A of RA 8551, amending Section 14 of RA 6975):
“(1) Develop policies and promulgate a police manual prescribing rules and regulations for efficient organization, administration and operation, including criteria for manpower allocation, distribution and deployment, recruitment, selection, promotion, and retirement of personnel and conduct of qualifying entrance and promotional examination for uniformed members;
“(4) Conduct an annual self-report survey and compile statistical data for the accurate assessment of the crime situation and proper evaluation of the efficiency and effectiveness of all police units in the country;
“(5) Approve or modify plans and programs on education and training, logistical requirements, communications, records, information systems, crime laboratory, crime prevention and crime reporting;
“(10) Inspect and assess the compliance of the PNP on the established criteria for manpower allocation, distribution and deployment and their impact on the community and the crime situation, and thereafter formulate appropriate guidelines for maximization of resources and effective utilization of the PNP personnel;
“(12) Monitor and investigate police anomalies and irregularities.”
The procurement of all logistical requirements of the PNP is subject to approval by the commission en banc. The director of the logistics division represents Napolcom in the determination of the reasonableness and regularity of all procurements. Should there be any anomaly or irregularity, both the PNP and Napolcom must share equal responsibility. It is the Napolcom en banc which approves, modify, or otherwise deny any logistical proposal.
It is, therefore, a big question mark why only Puno would be blamed for his alleged role in the anomalous procurement of firearms! Who were the signatories from the PNP and Napolcom? All those who participated in the irregularity should be held jointly and severally liable.
In the recent past, the purchase of secondhand helicopters and other anomalous procurements should be investigated and prosecuted—if we are to contribute to the President’s daang matuwid policy. Surely, the members of Napolcom should suffer the consequences of any anomalous procurement, either by their deeds of omission or commission.
The appointment of former Sen. Mar Roxas as the new head of the DILG appears to be what Mr. Aquino perceived as a shot in the arm for the constitutionally mandated civilian-in-character police force.
Since the merger of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) with local police forces that then President Ferdinand Marcos renamed as the Integrated National police (INP), the leadership of the PC/INP was always military.
The creation in 1991 of the PNP absorbed members of the defunct PC and INP but did not alter its military orientation. More so, the former original city and municipal police forces have all retired, leaving the PNP under the leadership of officers trained along military laws.
The concept of a constable-on-patrol policeman was changed into a soldier-on-mission system. The PNP patterned its structure after a military-oriented organization. Instead of a policeman who patrols the street with authority to prevent and suppress crime, arrest offenders, and investigate and file appropriate cases, there is now a military-style segregation of functions.
Distinction is made between intelligence and investigation. Operation is made a separate function. Units similar to military organizations are created, such as reaction force, special operation group, SWAT, holding group, reserve group, counter-intelligence, anti-this-and-that group, and so many other units that reduce the number of personnel in the police beat patrol.
There are simply so many units with overlapping functions that jeopardize the police visibility, community relations and public assistance functions of the PNP.
Moreover, there appears to be a tendency on the part of both the PNP and Napolcom leadership to mangle the provision on staffing, i.e. there are now many positions not specified in the law, and more chief superintendents (generals) than what was allowed by Section 35, RA 6975 as amended by RA 8551, prescribing the rank structure for chiefs of support units with the rank of chief superintendent or higher (one-star general or higher).
While the PNP chief may constitute other support units as may be necessary subject to the approval of the commission, that authority was qualified by the same law, “that no support unit headed by a chief superintendent or a higher rank can be created unless provided for by law.” At present, there are positions and ranks that openly violate this law.
It is against this background that Roxas came into the picture—to reconcile the gap between the police service and the sociopolitical aspect of public service. Traditionally, the DILG is handled by someone who is reputed to be tough or barako (macho), or a former law enforcer or soldier. But as chair of Napolcom and alter ego of the President, the DILG chief has the moral and persuasive, if not coercive power over the PNP to restore its functions—to serve and protect, crime prevention instead of apprehension, community relation instead of fault-finding, and in some cases, extortion and evidence planting.
The people expect the new interior and local government secretary to give meaning to this civilian concept of a national police.
But then, the ghosts of the anomalous procurement transactions in the recent past involving the present PNP and Napolcom leadership must require a reevaluation of the efficacy of Napolcom’s exercise of control and administration over the PNP. The late Robredo embarked on containing this nefarious activity but was not able to pursue it when he met his tragic death.
A review of Napolcom activities in the past three years would reveal a failure in the performance of its mandated role under Section 5(a)-5, which authorizes it particularly “to approve or modify plans and programs on xxx logistical requirements xxx;” while Section 10 amends Section 20 of RA 6975 under subsection (b), which provides that:
“The Installation and Logistics Service xxx shall formulate policies and procedures regarding acquisition, xxx maintenance and disposal of supplies and shall oversee the implementation of programs on transportation facilities and installation and the procurement and maintenance of supplies and equipment;”
It is noteworthy to state that all the reported anomalous procurement of supplies and equipment (firearms, vehicles helicopters, ammunition and similar items) for the use of the PNP passes through and are approved by the incumbent Napolcom commissioners whose appointments were made within the three-year controversial period:
1. Commissioner Alejandro S. Urro (March 5, 2010 [appointment]; March 25, 2010 [oath-taking])
His appointment was vice Commissioner Luis Mario General who was appointed on July 2008, replacing Imelda Roces who was named to Napolcom on Sept. 20, 2004 but died while in office on Sept. 8, 2007, leaving her unexpired term of six years up to September 2010.
2. Commissioner Constancia De Guzman ( March 8, 2010 [appointment]; April 27, 2010 (oath taking])
3. Commissioner Eduardo Escueta (March 8, 2010 [appointment]; March 25, 2010 [oath taking])
He reportedly took an oath of office together with Urro before then Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno. However, a document in the personnel records had another oath-taking before Judge Alberico Umali on March 9, 2010.
4. Commissioner Luisito Palmera (January 2010 [appointment]; January 2010 [oath taking])
Upon the assumption of the presidency by Mr. Aquino, he issued Executive Order No. 2 which nullified all midnight appointments made by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, issued or made after March 11, 2010.
The Court of Appeals ruled that “oath of office is a qualifying requirement for a public officer, a prerequisite to the full investiture of the office.” Hence, even if an appointment was made before March 11, 2010, if the oath-taking was done after that date, the same is considered a midnight appointment and thus nullified by EO 2, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
Napolcom controls, administers and supervises the PNP in all aspects of its existence and operation. Just like the board of directors of a corporation, Napolcom exercises almost absolute power over the PNP by virtue of the pertinent provisions of RA 6975 as amended by RA 8551.
These powers of Napolcom over the PNP are enumerated under Section 5 of RA 8551, as amended by Section 14 of RA 6975. They are aimed at monitoring and ensuring compliance of the PNP with Napolcom policies (Section 10 of RA 8551 as amended by Section 20 of RA 6975) in creating the following:
1) Planning and Research Service; 2) Legal Affairs Service; 3) Crime Prevention and Coordination Service; 4) Personnel and Administrative Service; 5)Inspection, Monitoring and Investigation Service; 6) Installation and Logistics Service; and 7) Financial Service—which covers the whole administration and operation of the PNP.
Such being the case, all the glory and accolades heaped on all activities of the PNP shall be to the credit of Napolcom. On the other hand, all the bulilyaso, anomalies, acts of omission or commission and all acts prejudicial to the interest of the public, should be and must be the responsibility of Napolcom.
The 1987 Constitution mandates that public servants must not only be authorized and responsible for their acts but must also be accountable. Hence, the consequences of failure and anomalies shall be placed on the shoulders of both the PNP and Napolcom leadership, which includes the recorded anomalies under investigation involving the helicopter scam and the aborted acquisition of overpriced firearms.
It is, therefore, proper and necessary that the new head of the DILG be given a free hand in selecting members of his team, including a new leadership for Napolcom and the PNP to give meaning to the daang matuwid. After all, there is a need for those aspiring to be members of the new team of Mr. Aquino to be like Caesar’s wife, not only clean but above suspicion!
Police service appears to be the backbone of an effective and efficient public service. Peace and order is a sine qua non for development and progress.
And so, we therefore equate the philosophy and science of public administration (and service) with police service.
We are inclined to return to the concept of police service as an extension and partner of duly elected officials in the performance of their sworn duties in the service of the Filipino people.
It is not too late to return to the original doctrine of police service—to serve and protect.
(Rogelio A. Pureza, MNSA, is a special professorial lecturer at the Graduate School of Public Administration of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.)