Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Verzosa bids farewell to Ma’am
By Marlon Ramos, TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—She didn’t shake his hand and looked at her watch twice during his PowerPoint presentation.

But other than that, there were no awkward moments, just expressions of mutual admiration and a token of gratitude.

More than two months after announcing he would not back moves to install her as holdover president, Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa Tuesday thanked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the PNP’s “transformation” under her administration.

Ms Arroyo, in return, conferred the Legion of Honor on Verzosa for his role in ensuring the success of the country’s first nationwide automated elections last month.

She bid farewell to the PNP also by doubling the cash assistance for slain or wounded policemen.

In an executive order that took effect Tuesday, Ms Arroyo increased the cash assistance for the survivors of policemen killed in action from P100,000 to P250,000; for the seriously injured, from P50,000 to P100,000; and the less seriously injured, from P20,000 to P50,000.

She also reminded the policemen that she had raised their pay from P6,000 in 2001, when she took over from deposed President Joseph Estrada, to P17,000 at present.

With last year’s enactment of the Salary Standardization Law, PNP personnel would receive a salary increase each year from July 2009 to July 2012, Ms Arroyo said.

“This is so deserving because of how you have been transformed, including how many of our policemen and women gave up their lives to fight lawlessness,” she said.

“Madam President, I am proud and happy to report that the PNP you knew nine years ago is now a transformed organization,” Verzosa said in his speech during the “command and exit briefing” for Ms Arroyo at Camp Crame.

‘Forever grateful’

“The 135,000-strong men and women of the PNP owe (this) to you as our Commander in Chief,” he added.

The PNP chief, who will likely keep his post under the new administration of President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, also presented Ms Arroyo with a glass-encased copy of the speech she delivered at the PNP’s 19th anniversary program last February.

Inscribed on the casing’s metal plate was the message: “We are forever grateful of your support.”

Ms Arroyo’s visit to the PNP’s general headquarters Tuesday was her first since Verzosa declared in early March that he would not support any plans to make her holdover president should there be a failure of elections.

Speculation was rife that his statement, which was made during an Inquirer interview, did not sit well with Ms Arroyo. She skipped the graduation rites of the PNP Academy and later failed to acknowledge Verzosa in her speech at the anniversary rites of the Philippine Army.

Last meeting

Presiding over what may be her last meeting with the PNP top brass as their civilian leader, Ms Arroyo lauded them for safeguarding the credibility of the May 10 balloting.

Ms Arroyo also thanked the high command for installing her as president after the Edsa II People Power uprising and for keeping their loyalty during her nine-year tenure in Malacañang.

She singled out her first PNP Director General and now Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza for quashing violent street protests set off by Estrada supporters in May 2001.

“You know I remember early in my administration, when we inherited this culture of lawlessness and kidnapping, I used to call up General Mendoza at 1 o’clock in the morning, 2 o’clock in the morning, because of what we had to do to address the problem,” she recalled.

“And he got used to my early phone calls, he would automatically answer, ‘Yes ma’am, good morning.’ ‘Larry it’s still good evening, up to now,” she added, eliciting a smile from Mendoza.

“Now that he’s executive secretary, it may not be (about) kidnapping or lawlessness, I’d call him again at 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock in the morning. But I’m sure ... you’re proud (that your) chief PNP became executive secretary and little president of the Philippines,” she said, drawing hearty applause.

Body language

After the briefing, Verzosa and Ms Arroyo joined other officials in the presidential lounge in a closed-door gathering.

Facing reporters later, Verzosa simply said his 25-minute meeting with Ms Arroyo “was OK.”

“There was no discussion about (our official functions). I just mentioned to her that most of my classmates (in the Philippine Military Academy) are retiring,” he said.

Verzosa maintained that the meeting with Ms Arroyo was warm and cordial.

To some observers, however, her body language during the affair conveyed a different mood. For one, Ms Arroyo did not shake Verzosa’s hand to acknowledge his 12-minute PowerPoint presentation that highlighted the PNP’s gains under the Arroyo administration.

She also looked at her watch twice and talked to her aides thrice while Verzosa was speaking.

Verzosa just smiled when asked what he thought of Ms Arroyo’s actions.

Thanks for raise

The PNP chief thanked Ms Arroyo for issuing executive orders that raised the basic salary of policemen, and funded various housing programs for PNP personnel and the construction of model police stations.

He also recalled that Ms Arroyo approved the allocation of P10 billion for the purchase of modern weapons and other battle gear over a five-year period.

Verzosa said the PNP, through Ms Arroyo’s Administrative Order No. 85, was able to set up a “reform commission” headed by former Justice Secretary Sedfrey Ordoñez and which helped curb corruption in the organization.

Thanks to this initiative, the PNP became one of the most trusted government agencies, he said.

“This is one concrete evidence that the PNP under this present administration is undergoing a genuine transformation,” he said.

Verzosa said the PNP was also able to recruit 10,000 new police officers and improve its training program under Ms Arroyo’s leadership.

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