Arroyo snubs PNP chief anew at Army anniversary

Arroyo snubs PNP chief anew at Army anniversary
By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa sat among the country’s top military brass but he could well have been invisible to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The President curiously did not acknowledge Verzosa’s presence at the 113th founding anniversary of the Philippine Army in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City Monday while specifically mentioning the service commanders in the audience.

It was the second apparent snub on Verzosa.

On March 17, Ms Arroyo skipped the graduation ceremony of the PNP Academy, an event she made a point to attend in the past.

This was after Verzosa went to the Philippine Daily Inquirer office and said that he would not support Gen. Delfin Bangit, newly appointed chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, should he attempt to keep Ms Arroyo in office if the May 10 elections failed.

Also absent in Monday’s affair was Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

Assistant Secretary Brian Yamsuan said Puno, who is close to Verzosa, had been on leave since last week for a medical checkup in preparation for the start of the local election campaign on Friday.

Puno is the chief campaign strategist of the administration’s presidential candidate, former Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

Yamsuan denied talk that Puno was asked to go on leave in connection with the controversy over Verzosa’s statements.

Puno took off on March 17, the same day Ms Arroyo skipped the PNP graduation ceremony.

Ms Arroyo profusely thanked the military for supporting her administration the past nine years, prefacing her remarks with an acknowledgement of the presence of Bangit, Vice Adm. Emilio Marayag and Army Chief Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu.

The President was well aware that Verzosa was present in the crowd. No less than Mapagu had acknowledged the presence of the PNP chief.

Incident downplayed

Palace officials downplayed the incident.

“There is nothing to be inferred from the incident that rises to the level of something that we should be worried about as citizens,” said Gary Olivar, deputy presidential spokesperson. “It may make for interesting gossip but that’s all it is.”

Olivar told reporters that “personal issues may exist” between the President and Verzosa or even anyone else but he stressed what was important was that “we have functional institutions, functional processes.”

“The important thing is the chain of command is intact and obedience to the laws by the uniformed men is also intact,” Olivar said.

He said Verzosa continued to be PNP chief. “There is still a functioning and good relationship between Verzosa and the Commander in Chief.”

Asked whether this meant Verzosa still enjoyed the trust of the President, Olivar said: “I have no reason to believe otherwise after the facts I have just described.”

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.