Thursday, March 18, 2010

Arroyo snubs PNPA rites (President reportedly upset with PNP chief)

By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:34:00

Filed Under: Police, Government

Original Story:

MANILA, Philippines—Was that a snub?

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Thursday skipped the graduation ceremony of the Philippine National Police Academy in a show of displeasure over Director General Jesus Verzosa’s declaration that he would not support a move to extend her term, police sources told the Inquirer on condition of anonymity.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno instead represented Ms Arroyo, who flew to Sarangani, Lanao del Sur and Zamboanga del Sur to attend to concerns sparked by the prolonged El Niño dry spell, said Malacañang spokesperson Ricardo Saludo.

Ms Arroyo’s activities, however, had nothing to do with the drought—like welcoming a delegation of Indonesian businessmen, witnessing a signing ceremony and visiting a high school and public market, according to a Palace schedule.

“Ms Arroyo really felt bad about General Verzosa’s statement,” said one police source who requested anonymity for lack of authority to talk to reporters. The source noted that it was unusual for Ms Arroyo to skip the graduation rites and miss addressing the fresh graduates.

The source said Puno only learned on Wednesday night that he was standing in for Ms Arroyo at the PNP Academy at Camp Gen. Mariano Castañeda in Silang, Cavite.

A ranking intelligence police officer said that Ms Arroyo probably “got the wrong impression” of Verzosa’s statement.

Asked to comment, Verzosa snapped, “I don’t want to answer speculative, hypothetical questions anymore.”

In an interview with Philippine Daily Inquirer editors and reporters at its office in makati City last week, Verzosa said he would not support Gen. Delfin Bangit, the newly appointed chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, should he attempt to keep Ms Arroyo in office in the event of a failure of the May 10 elections.

“From what I heard, the President thought Verzosa said something negative about her. But his statements were just proper being the chief of the PNP,” the officer said.

“There’s really nothing wrong with what he said. In fact, that’s expected from law enforcers like us.”

Told that Palace officials had lauded Verzosa’s remarks, the officer replied: “Well, it’s possible that what other Malacañang officials say in public may actually be different from what the President feels.”

Awkward moments

The police source also speculated that Ms Arroyo preferred to skip Thursday’s graduation rites to avoid “awkward” moments with Margarita Cojuangco, an aunt of Sen. Benigno Aquino III, the Liberal Party presidential candidate.

Cojuangco is the president of Philippine Public Safety College, which is under the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Aquino has said that one of his first acts if he is elected president will be to set up a commission that will investigate the various scandals that had engulfed Ms Arroyo.

In his remarks, Puno told the 198 graduates that Ms Arroyo was extending her “congratulations to all of you for a great career in the public service.”

He later told reporters that he had never discussed with Verzosa his position on Bangit.

“General Verzosa never said anything opposed to the beliefs of the President,” Puno said in Filipino.

He said that Verzosa simply wanted to assure the public that speculation on possible electoral fraud would not happen.

“I am unaware of any illegal orders from the President Arroyo to General Verzosa even once,” Puno said.

Mindanao trip

Saludo, however, explained to reporters why Ms Arroyo traveled to Mindanao instead.

“El Niño has adverse effects not only on power but on crops as well. It’s something that needs constant attention because millions of our countrymen are affected by this. And I won’t be surprised if the President wants to make sure that government is responding properly to this,” he said.

After welcoming the 164 delegates of the Tahuna Republic of Indonesia Exploratory Mission in Glan, Sarangani, which is being developed as a port of entry for Indonesian traders and tourists, Ms Arroyo flew to Lambatan town in Lanao del Sur province.

There, she witnessed the signing of an agreement between the National Nutrition Council and the Department of Health on nutrition and hunger-mitigation in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao at Lanao Agricultural College.

The agreement would ensure that the government’s nutrition program would be carried out in barangays, officials said.

She later visited the national high school in Ramon Magsaysay town in Zamboanga del Sur province and its public market to check if the prices of basic food items such as canned goods, coffee, sugar, and milk were within the range specified by law. With reports from Marlon Ramos and TJ Burgonio

Original Story:

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