‘Know your law’

Court rebuffs N. Vizcaya gov on bid to retain police chief

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–For the second time, a regional trial court here has denied the petition of Gov. Luisa Cuaresma to block the impending relief of the provincial police director, saying her objections were without legal basis.

In an order, Judge Rogelio Corpuz of RTC branch 27 here on Tuesday dismissed Cuaresma’s motion for reconsideration which sought a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) of the relief of Senior Supt. Segundo Duran Jr.

Duran was relieved from his post here through a Jan. 16 order issued by Chief Supt. Ameto Tolentino, police director for Cagayan Valley region, pursuant to a directive from the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame.

Cuaresma opposed this, and immediately filed a petition for injunction and TRO. She said the PNP brass did not inform or consult her before they removed Duran.

The court granted a 72-hour TRO which expired Monday. Cuaresma sought for an extension, but was denied, prompting her lawyers to seek reconsideration.

In denying Cuaresma’s motion, the court debunked her contention that the governor’s power granted by law to appoint a provincial police director requires that she must be consulted prior to the relief of the police official.

Quoting the law, the court said that although governors and mayors are granted the power to select the police chief from at least three candidates, the power to transfer, reassign or detail PNP personnel is a “command prerogative”.

“An incumbent provincial director may be removed, transferred or re-assigned without the approval of the governor. While prior consultation with the governor in such personnel action is desirable and suggested to enhance mutual harmony and coordination, such consultation is not mandatory but mere discretionary,” it said.

This writer tried to seek Cuaresma for comment but her staff said she was out for an official business in Metro Manila.

Since Duran’s relief, police personnel here were confused on who to recognize as their provincial director, as Cuaresma continued to insist on Duran as the provincial director, despite the designation of Supt. Domingo Lucas, Duran’s deputy, as officer in-charge.

“We are confused because we don’t know whose orders to follow. We know that (Superintendent) Lucas is the OIC, but (Senior Superintendent Duran) still regularly reports for work because he’s the one recognized by the governor,” a lady staff member said, asking not to be named.

Chief Superintendent Tolentino declined to comment on the court order. He said he has yet to receive a copy of the document.

In an earlier interview, he maintained that he had visited Cuaresma to inform her of Duran’s relief, along with a written order from the PNP’s national headquarters. He did not say, however, the reasons for Duran’s removal from his post.

In a letter, Cuaresma appealed to Tolentino not to enforce Duran’s relief, owing to the embattled provincial director’s “remarkable performance” during his 10-month stint here. She cited Duran’s accomplishments in the campaign against drug trafficking, illegal logging and illegal gambling.

The governor’s statements were, however, belied when elements of the PNP’s regional special operations group on Saturday raided two illegal gambling dens here and in Bambang town, which led to the arrest of about 32 suspected “jueteng” workers.