MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has stripped the Philippine National Police (PNP) of its procurement powers after learning about a supposed attempt to buy costly traffic speed guns.
Duterte said intelligence officials have discovered that the PNP is planning to buy speed guns that cost P950,000 each during a recent command conference. He said the amount is “b*** s***” because the local government of Davao City bought the equipment for only P10,000 per unit.
“The intelligence noticed that the radar for the traffic, P950,000, close to a million. We did not notice it. Those policemen… I thought the amount was for the whole gamut… it turned out, it was the price for each unit. So the intelligence called because when I was in Davao, I bought a speed gun. (Davao City Mayor Sara) Inday (Duterte-Carpio) bought it for P10,000 each,” the President said in a speech at Fort Bonifacio last Monday. ?“Son of a b****. What a pest. I called (Interior and Local Government) Secretary (Eduardo) Año. I said, ‘Do not allow the police to procure. Your office will be the one to procure. Many of the retired generals there are OK,” he added.
While it was not clear whether a probe has been conducted on the proposed speed gun project, Duterte said the attempt to buy costly equipment was a case of corruption.
“I love the police. The problem is there are rotten people there. I may be wrong, but certainly (P950,000) for just one radar (for) traffic, b*** s***. So I called Año. I said ‘Remove the procurement (powers) of the police. They cannot buy even a (paper) clip,’” he said.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte was “angry” when he learned about the costly speed gun project.
“I suppose it goes without saying, when there is an anomaly, the investigation should be forthcoming,” Panelo said at a press briefing yesterday.
?Radar speed guns will allow police and traffic authorities to detect speeding vehicles.
But Año explained yesterday that there was only a glaring error in the presentation of the PNP equipment wish list to the President. He said the PNP mixed up terms and figures of the gadgets they intend to procure.
The police officials, he noted, told Duterte that they were planning to buy radar speed guns when what they really wanted to procure are micro digital and photo video laser tech systems.
The gadget, which is being used by advanced countries such as the US and Israel, can store up to 15,000 images and has an average price of P1 million.
“I also got angry. You don’t present wrong data, terms or figures to the President during a formal briefing,” Año said in a Viber message.
Duterte initially approved the procurement of radar speed guns, breath analyzers and weighing scales for overloaded vehicles during a command conference with top police officials last Tuesday. However, he changed his mind after learning of the alleged discrepancy between quoted and actual prices.
Año believes it was an honest mistake and that police officials had no intention to fool the President.
PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa, who was present during the command conference, said they already sent a formal communication explaining their side to the President.
“We have provided our explanation and we will wait for his decision,” Gamboa told The STAR in a phone interview. He refused to go into details on the content of their explanation, saying they will abide by whatever the President decides.
A police official, present during the command conference and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the President felt the PNP is taking advantage of his generosity. He added that the incident was a result of miscommunication.
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said they have been transparent in their procuring process, which has resulted in an absorptive capacity of 98 percent in the past three years.
“We assure the public that we will never allow corruption in the PNP,” he said at a press briefing in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson expressed his belief yesterday that Duterte may just be waiting for the top PNP generals to go on early retirement to be able to freely choose the next chief of the 190,000-strong police force.
He said the delay in the President’s selection of a permanent PNP chief and his directive to Año to take command of the agency’s procurements indicate that Duterte was showing “not only displeasure, not only lack of trust, but absence of trust” in the organization’s top leadership.
“I think what the President is waiting for right now is to hear from the more senior officers to just volunteer to opt for early retirement to give the President the free hand to choose (and go on) deep selection,” Lacson told reporters.
He recalled Duterte as saying he wanted to choose as deep as officers with the rank of brigadier general. PNP three-star officers or lieutenant generals are almost automatically candidates for the position of PNP chief, which carries a four-star rank.
“So I think they should think it over if this is the gesture the President is showing – their boss. Maybe he’s just waiting for them to volunteer to resign or opt for early retirement,” he said.
He said their pensions would remain intact if they leave a few months short of their mandatory retirement. – With Emmanuel Tupas, Paolo Romero