Aquino skips political noise, praises Roxas

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WARMING HIS SEAT? In his speech at the 113th Police Service Anniversary, President Aquino assures policemen that they are in good hands under Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and PNP chief Alan Purisima. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

In his first address before uniformed personnel at the 113th Police Service Anniversary, President Benigno Aquino III kept mum about coup rumors and calls for him to run for a second term that have recently surfaced on social media.

Instead, the Commander in Chief focused on assuring the men and women in the police force that the government would continue to look after their welfare and that the Philippine National Police would be modernized.

He, however, took the opportunity to once again call attention to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who is widely perceived to be his favored political heir in 2016.  Mr. Aquino said the PNP was in good hands, thanks to the service rendered by Roxas and PNP chief Alan Purisima.

The coup rumors started when Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV last week revealed that retired military generals allied with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were trying to recruit active military officers in a destabilization plot.

Beyond 2016

Mr. Aquino did not address calls for him to extend his term beyond June 30, 2016, even as his spokespersons had been giving different replies to the media on how he was reacting to such calls posted mainly on social media.

On Friday, deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte reiterated that the President “listens to the calls from the people,” as he did five years ago when he run for the presidential post.

“He has consistently held the people to be his bosses. That has not changed for the President, and he continues to hold fast to this to this day,” Valte said.

Previously, on Thursday, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Mr. Aquino was counting down the days until he completes his six-year term.

In his speech before the PNP, President Aquino said his “administration continues to do its best to implement meaningful reforms that would further strengthen [the police force].”

‘Shoot, scoot, communicate’

He added that despite the Supreme Court ruling against the Disbursement Acceleration Program, there would be no letup in the government’s modernization efforts for the PNP.

This includes strengthening the “shoot, scoot and communicate” doctrine, the President said, referring to the military capability for offensive and defensive operations called “move, shoot and communicate.”

“We continue to take steps to ensure your continued modernization,” Mr. Aquino said, adding that the 2015 national budget had earmarked P2 billion for the PNP Capability Enhancement Program and P100 million for the construction of 18 police stations nationwide.

The President enumerated some of the government’s projects for the PNP, among them achieving a 1:1 police-to-pistol ratio; housing projects; the upgrading of its scientific and forensic gathering capability, and the implementation of a more organized Crime Incident Recording System.

Nonuniformed personnel

Mr. Aquino said the PNP was now preparing to hire an initial 7,439 of the targeted 30,000 nonuniformed personnel meant to carry out the administrative tasks of the police force.

“In this way, the police … would be able to patrol the neighborhoods and focus on ensuring the safety of our ‘bosses,’” the President said.

He also reiterated the need to fix the pension system of the retired personnel of the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Mr. Aquino said the government needed more than P4 trillion as seed capital to address the retirees’ pension, almost double the country’s P2.6-trillion budget for 2015.

“This is how big the problem we inherited is. But we are determined: We are now doing everything to address this,” President Aquino said.

More scientific, ‘work smarter’

As part of a more scientific approach to crime-solving, the President lauded the Integrated Ballistics Information System, which gathers all information on firearms nationwide, and the new Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which makes it easier for the police to search and match fingerprints in crime investigations.

Mr. Aquino said the police force was now operating on the principle of “work smarter,” where more policemen are strategically deployed based on the comprehensive data gathered by the PNP.

The President also stressed that 98 percent or 30,558 of the 31,200 houses under the Phase II of the AFP/PNP Housing Program have been completed. Of this figure, 14,040 units are reserved for the police and their families.

“The final list of awardees for this program is now being submitted to the NHA (National Housing Authority),” President Aquino said.

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