GENERAL SANTOS CITY, December 15, 2014 – Review the various media reports. Evidently, the Purisima case has been correctly and fairly handled. It should not be questioned from that angle.
Following the exposés, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee held an investigation starting in the last week of September 2014. PNP Director General Alan Purisima cooperated. While the Senate hearings were going on, complaints were file before the Ombudsman who subsequently ordered fact-finding investigations.
Last October 9, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales formed a special five-man panel to conduct a preliminary investigation based on the facts found to determine Purisima’s liability for plunder or graft before the Sandiganbayan. The panel was also to look into his liability for administrative cases, including grave abuse of authority and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Last December 4, the Ombudsman ordered Purisima’s preventive suspension for six months while undergoing an administrative investigation together with other respondents in connection with the “contract with courier service WERFAST Documentary Agency in 2011 for the delivery of firearms license cards even without proper accreditation”. There has been no report about the plunder aspect of the investigations.
Purisima, on the following day, asked the Court of Appeals for a temporary restraining order against the suspension. He failed. Last December 11, DILG Secretary Manuel A. Roxas III, concurrently head of the National Police Commission, served the suspension order and appointed Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina as the Philippine National Police OIC.
President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, while in Busan, South Korea last December 13 attending the ASEAN–Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit, approved Purisima’s suspension and backed Espina as the PNP OIC, said the Philippine Daily Inquirer last December 13. He was allaying concerns that the PNP “may now be headless”.
The President told reporters: “He’s [Espina] the head of the PNP at this point. He’s supposed to run [the PNP]. Somebody doesn’t follow him, that person gets removed. Whatever we put in place should not be dependent on any one person.”
Of Purisima, the President’s position is clear: He will have to go through the necessary legal processes, including the Ombudsman’s preventive suspension. But like any other citizen, he has the right to defend himself. Reiterating: “So, No. 1, we will follow all of the processes and all the procedures mandated by law. No. 2, we also have to recognize that this person has rights that should also be protected.”
Well stated. “No.1” has been and is being followed; “No. 2” has been and will be done. However, the President has gone a step farther by openly defending Purisima. Following is the portion of the Inquirer’s report on the President’s defense of Purisima, in toto:
Tendency of leaders:
In Purisima’s defense, Mr. Aquino noted that leaders tend to depend on their subordinates and the experts they consult when signing certain contracts, especially if the matters concerned are technical and not easily grasped.
Citing his own experience as an example, he said part of his functions was to sign documents prepared by certain agencies.
He said a possible defense that Purisima might raise was that his role was only ministerial, that somebody else accredited the supplier and he had to implement the deal.
“I will put myself in his place. Will I check all of the papers that pass through me so that the process could begin? Will I be able to handle that?” he asked.
He said he handles almost a meter-tall stack of papers every day. While he meticulously combs through the documents, he said there was no way he could guarantee that nothing had slipped his attention.
Mr. Aquino also said that in entering into the deal, Purisima was trying to solve election-related violence in 2013, including the proliferation of unlicensed firearms.
He said delivering the licenses to the residences of the gunowners would serve as another check on the identity of the gunowner, since it would verify if their given addresses were correct.
“I’m trying to look at it from the overall picture. How do you address the systemic issues that led to 60,000 firearms being registered as questionable? If you don’t stop that, then you continue the problem. So this was among the steps they undertook,” he said.
“Was it perfect? People are not perfect. Did he knowingly commit these grievous errors? That is what needs to be proven,” Mr. Aquino said.
But since the Ombudsman found a reason to place Purisima under prevented suspension, he has to comply with this order, Mr. Aquino said.
No one can dispute the fact that Purisima has the right to defend himself. But, is it proper for the President to defend him openly? The administrative case against Purisima is just starting. What the President has said in his defense can influence the outcome of the case.
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at [email protected].]