Lawmakers wrangle over who will control Bangsamoro police
MANILA, Philippines–Who will control the local Bangsamoro police—the Philippine National Police chief, the mayors or the Bangsamoro chief minister?
Lawmakers tussled on Monday over who would exercise administrative and operational control over the local police force of future Bangsamoro substate at the resumption of deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the House of Representatives.
The ad hoc committee on the BBL, chaired by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, debated the legality of giving supervisory powers over the local police to the chief Bangsamoro minister, instead of to the local mayors who hold such powers under the law.
The argument began when Police Senior Supt. Cesar Binag, representing PNP officer in charge Leonardo Espina, noted that the BBL was “silent” on the functional relationship between the Bangsamoro police director and the PNP chief.
He said the BBL was not clear on the directional command of the PNP chief over the Bangsamoro police.
But Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal questioned Binag’s authority to speak for the PNP, noting that he was not present during previous BBL hearings, while other PNP officials never aired similar reservations on the draft law.
Binag said he was asked to fill in for Espina due to his experience as a deputy commissioner to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Liberia.
He also said he had the authority to speak for the PNP organization.
Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat said Binag’s comments should be made part of the record.
Lobregat noted that under the BBL, the chief minister would have operational control and supervision over the local police, “taking away those powers from the mayor.”
But Rodriguez pointed out that under the PNP law, it is the National Police Commission (Napolcom) that is mandated to deputize local mayors so they could exercise control over the police within their jurisdictions.
Lobregat wondered if the BBL would effectively repeal the PNP law.
Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong, however, noted that in the current setup of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, or ARMM, which the Bangsamoro entity will replace, operational control over the police was being wielded by the ARMM governor.
“There is no inconsistency,” he said.
Government peace panel member Senen Bacani said the Bangsamoro entity was in a “unique situation,” and under the principle of unity of command, the “Bangsamoro shall be primarily responsible for public order and safety.”
Interior Undersecretary Peter Corvera said the chief minister of the Bangsamoro would be deputized by the Napolcom to exercise control over the local police.
He noted the “peculiar structure “of the Bangsamoro political entity, but this has already been done before, Corvera said, in reply to questions by Iloilo Rep. Arthur Defensor Jr.
“With respect to the ARMM, operational control is also given to the governor, thus, there’s no conflict vis-a-vis the authority given to local executives,” he said.
Do mayors retain their authority? “There is no express provision repealing or incorporating [their powers over the police] but we would like to believe it is harmonized,” Corvera said.
“As far as the DILG or PNP is concerned, regardless of this provision stating that the chief minister shall exercise power over the police… the ultimate direction, control and supervision will necessarily lie with the PNP chief,” he said.
Corvera said there was no significant difference between the current setup in the ARMM and the future setup in the BBL.
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