Belmonte to Purisima: Resign now

HOUSE Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Thursday demanded the resignation of national police chief Director General Alan Purisima amid mounting allegations of unexplained wealth and corruption hurled against him.

“He should submit a courtesy resignation, considering he is the highest law enforcement officer in the land,” Belmonte said.

Purisima is facing plunder and graft charges before the Ombudsman following reports that he owns a mansion in Nueva Ecija and that he accepted millions of pesos in questionable donations to renovate his official quarters in Camp Crame.

In the United States for a working visit, President Benigno Aquino III continued to defend his beleaguered police chief, saying it was not right to dismiss him when he “leads the police force and does his job dutifully.”

But Belmonte said the President should refrain from defending his men, and allow them to face the charges and be held accountable.

“It gives a bad impression when he (Purisima) is seen hanging on,” Belmonte said.

Under fire for the very public daytime robbery and abduction on EDSA in which the suspects were policemen, Purisima has maintained his silence, ducking a Senate hearing on the growing spate of crimes and going to Bogota, Colombia, instead to attend an anti-kidnapping conference.

1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III, a member of the House minority bloc, echoed Belmonte’s call for Purisima to resign.

“With all the issues versus General Purisima, no right thinking policeman will ever believe and respect him. He has no choice except to go to save the President [and his administration from further embarrassment],” Bello said.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said at the least Purisima should go on a leave pending the resolution of the graft charges filed against him.

“The best recourse for Purisima is to convincingly respond to the accusations and take a leave of absence,” Ridon said.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, a member of the House independent minority bloc, also supported calls for Purisima to take a leave, but reminded the public that the police chief is innocent until proven guilty.

“But he has to explain himself and counter the allegations point by point. At the same time, he has to calm the waters within the police force and instill discipline in the ranks, give the criminals hell,” De la Cruz said.

President Aquino’s ties with Purisima dated back to 1987, at the height of a military uprising against his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, Ramon Montano, a former head of the Philippine Constabulary, said.

Montano said Aquino and Purisima were inseparable because they survived an attack by rebel soldiers belonging to the Reform the Armed Forces Movement in the Palace on Aug. 27, 1987.

Also on Thursday, Senator Francis Escudero called on the Department of the Interior and Local Government to conduct lifestyle checks, not only of those suspected of graft, but on the rank-and-file of the Philippine National Police to find out how the poorest of them lived.

He said the department should take a closer look at the prevalence of poverty among the lowest-ranking members of the police force, so they can take steps to improve the lives of the majority who are genuinely committed to their duties.

“Another important lifestyle check I think is the one which will not discover unexplained affluence but indescribable poverty among our policemen,” said Escudero.

A lifestyle check among policemen would determine if they are able to make ends meet, he said.

“I am sure that many of them will flunk it,” Escudero added.

He cited a 2004 study, which he believes still applies today, showing that six in 10 policemen did not own the houses in which they lived.

“If we are shocked by reports about policemen owning prime properties then all the more should we be angered by the fact many police officers rent rooms no bigger than a pig pen,” the senator said.

“For every police who has many bank accounts, there are a thousand policemen who are heavily indebted,” said Escudero.

An entry level policemen receives a basic pay of P18,549 a month minus taxes and other mandatory deductions.

This year, the PNP has an actual strength of 148,458 uniformed personnel out of the total authorized ceiling of 164,410. – With Macon Ramos-Araneta

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