MANILA - Senators blew their top during their hearing Thursday due to the absence of Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas and Land Transportation Office chief Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante.
The joint hearing by the Senate committees on justice and public order centered on the spate of unresolved killings in the country which. As of Thursday, there are reportedly 20 victims, including lawyers, health workers, and priests, among others.
What initially irked Justice Committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon was the absence of Sinas in the hearing.
Representing Sinas was Police Maj. Gen. Marni Marcos of the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, who told the Senate that Sinas was attending “other activities”.
“The Senate is the forum of the people. When we invite, that should be taken seriously. And when you say very cavalierly that he is attending other meetings, it is as if that the Senate is not important," Gordon said.
"Hindi ako nagpapa-importante rito. But please have a proper excuse because senators come here and we want to know kung darating kayo. You make it appear that he, General Sinas, is too busy to make him appear to the Senate of the Philippines,” the senator told Marcos.
Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, who served as PNP chief during the initial months of the Duterte presidency, also took offense at Sinas' absence in the hearing.
Dela Rosa said he religiously attended Senate hearings during his stint as PNP chief, along with the “top honchos” or the whole PNP directorial staff of the organization, so they could answer all queries.
Dela Rosa said the PNP's credibility and the public’s confidence to the force were at stake in those hearings.
“Hindi ko sinasabing pabayaan niyo trabaho niyo. I-priority ninyo. Pero at least man lang, kung hindi maiwasan ng chief PNP na mag-absent sa hearing, at least yung deputy niya na 3-star ang dito mag-attend. Hindi available ang CPNP, DCA, another 3-star DCO, another 3-star,” Dela Rosa said.
Gordon then warned Marcos to answer all the senators’ questions “or we will have a problem."
Incidentally, on Sen. Imee Marcos' questioning, the police officer failed to respond as regards the issue of unregistered firearms.
“Only 1 out of 10 guns were actually registered.. I’m just wondering if there is a major update on the effort of the PNP?” the senator asked.
“Kung dala-dala niyo yung Directorial Staff ninyo dito, ikaw, you are the Directorate for the Investigation and Detective Management, alam mong hindi mo kayang sagutin 'yang tanong na yan. Kung nandito yung Directorate for Operations, na kaniyang field yun, about the firearms control, eh dapat mabilis na masagot niyo ito. Para bang pakiramdam natin dito eh, binabalewala niyo kami dito... Performance ng PNP ang nakataya dito,” Dela Rosa said.
Minutes later, Sinas showed up and apologized for being late in joining the hearing.
“Pasensya na, I’m very sorry at hindi ako agad naka-join, sir. Sana po maintindihan niyo po ako,” Sinas said.
Sinas told the Senate that while he is set to retire in May, his leadership continues to implement reforms which include those earlier implemented by his predecessors.
One of those, according to Sinas, is the PNP’s ability to respond to distress calls within 15 minutes.
“Ang ni-report po, basta sa urban center, 'yun pong basta ni-report po, Sir. For example, yung insidente, Sir, nangyari ng 1 o’clock, tapos ni-report sa amin ng 2 o’clock yan, within 15 minutes narerespondehan po yan kaagad, Sir,” Sinas told the committee.
Sinas, meanwhile, said he is not interested to get a term extension.
REVOLVING DOOR POLICY CRITICIZED
Before the arrival of Sinas at the hearing, Gordon, in his opening statement, criticized President Rodrigo Duterte for seemingly observing a policy wherein those tapped to lead the PNP are chosen based on class seniority.
This practice should be stopped, Gordon said, in favor of younger police officers who are more competent to lead the organization.
“Walang oras ang kapulisan, lalo na yung mga pinuno na magbago. Gusto man nila, samandali lang silang tumatagal. Para bang pinagbibigyan lang ng Pangulo natin ang mga pulis na matapos ang isang class, bago magpalit ng isang pulis (chief). I respectfully disagree with our President on that policy. I think the President should start appointing people na dapat pinaka-the best,” Gordon said.
Gordon then enumerated cases concerning PNP officers which are still under investigation or in the process of collating additional evidence.
Gordon and Sen. Marcos repeatedly blamed the spate of killings to the current situation where suspects supposedly take advantage of the pandemic by wearing masks and other forms of personal protective equipment as they kill their targets.
MOTORCYCLE PLATES PROBE
Gordon later on shifted his attention to the LTO, asking the agency how many new bigger motorcycle plates have been released, which, according to him, is useful in instances when the rider commits a crime.
But Gordon and the other senators got irked by the report of LTO Operations Division chief Mercy Jane Paras-Leynes, which stated that 1,000 plates have been produced over the past 2 years.
Gordon noted that there are now 13 million registered motorcycles in the country.
“Yung bagong design po ng plates under RA 11235, meron na po tayong partial na na-produce. The data given by the plate-making plant, parang 1,000 pa lang po yung na-produce nila. Pero meron na po tayong na-distribute in NCR,” Paras-Leynes said.
“You’re really skirting the issue of the (Senate) Blue Ribbon on malfeasance, nonfeasance and misfeasance. I don’t like to make threats. But you know, 1,000? This bill was passed two years ago… That’s why we have a lot of killings using motorcycles,” Gordon said.
“I am with you. This is unacceptable. We worked hard to pass the law. But unfortunately, they are not implementing the law,” Senator Joel Villanueva added.
Paras-Leynes later corrected the information to 1 million, but which Gordon simply dismissed and described to be a sign of incompetence.
Gordon ordered his staff to prepare a “very strong letter” to Transportation Secretary Art Tugade and Galvante, and summon them to a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing regarding its failure to meet the required plate production and "very, very slow" implementation of Republic Act 11235 or the “Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act.”
“1,000 plates? Shame on you! Shame on the LTO! Is LTO a do-nothing agency?” Gordon said.
Senators Marcos, Dela Rosa and Villanueva seconded Gordon’s position to conduct a Blue Ribbon probe on LTO. Gordon has yet to announce the schedule of the would-be “motu proprio” hearing.