Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo expressed Thursday support for a bold move to reorganize the Philippine National Police (PNP) that would involve abolishing its regional offices and devolving more powers and resources to the local police.
“In principle, there really is a need to devolve authority and resources to the field, and that proposal is consistent with that principle,” Robredo said on the sidelines of the National Police Commission (Napolcom)’s 45th anniversary celebration in Makati City.
“I will support the proposal but insofar as the details are concerned, I think we have to thresh them out first,” Robredo told reporters.
The PNP has been at the center of controversy over anomalous transactions, including the purchase of secondhand helicopters in 2009 that sparked the filing of plunder charges against former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and top retired police officials.
At the Napolcom anniversary, the guest speaker, Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya, chairman of the House appropriations committee, pushed for the controversial reorganization bill pending in Congress in order to maximize resources.
“Our proposal is quite controversial but could have far-reaching reform,” Abaya said.
The most “crucial and controversial aspect” of the reorganization plan, hAbaya said, involved the abolition of all regional command offices and the creation of seven area commands in their place.
More resources to field
“The primary purpose of this move—and I’m sure the senior officers would always react—is that this will push down resources to the provincial stations, municipal stations and city stations,” Abaya said.
“What is the logic behind this? The area command will be limited mainly to administrative and logistic support, and will not be involved in operational matters. Operations will be moved down to the provincial level,” Abaya said.
Abaya noted that “there are no region-wide police operations.”
“The maximum would be provincial-wide,” he said.
“There will be no reduction in stars (general rank). The same stars shall remain. However, I know commanders will react because definitely for police officers, there’s a great difference from a two-star deputy commander to a one-star commander,” Abaya said.
“Any police officer would choose the one-star commander over the two-star deputy commander,” Abaya said.
Abaya acknowledged usual counterarguments to the proposal: “They would say, ‘Sir, the other departments also have a regional organization. We have to be parallel with them.’”
“My ready counterargument with them is: Your coordination with other regional offices is merely administrative,” Abaya said. He said the reorganization would focus on police operations and maximize resources.
“Any professional police officer, given the choice of prioritizing administrative over operational, would say operational is more important than administrative,” Abaya said, noting that a survey of all retired former police chiefs showed they agreed with the proposal.
“But the thing is, they admitted that if they were still PNP chief, they would not agree. But after retirement, then they would agree, which is understandable,” Abaya said.
Napolcom Vice Chairman Eduardo Escueta told reporters he expected resistance to the proposal from police ranks.
Escueta noted that the present setup of the PNP was already the product of “several interim adjustments from the original reorganization plan that the Napolcom submitted in 1998.”