For serious dishonesty and grave abuse of authority, Director General Alan Purisima, the former Philippine National Police chief, and 10 PNP officers were dismissed from the service for entering into an anomalous contract with an unregistered courier service firm to deliver firearms licenses.
President Aquino had vigorously defended Purisima, a close personal friend, from any wrongdoing last year.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales announced on Tuesday that she found substantial evidence of wrongdoing by Purisima and the other PNP officials over the exclusive contract given to Werfast Documentary Agency Inc. in 2011 to order their dismissal on the grounds of administrative liability.
The others who were dismissed were the PNP Central Luzon director, Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, who was considered a top contender for the next PNP chief; the Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO) head, Chief Supt. Napoleon Estiles; Senior Superintendents Allan Parreño, Eduardo Aciento and Melchor Reyes; Supt. Lenbell Fabia; and Chief Inspectors Sonia Calixto, Nelson Bautista, Ricardo Zapata Jr. and Ford Tuazon.
Morales said the PNP officials were accused of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and grave abuse of authority.
She also ordered the retirement benefits of the men forfeited and perpetually banned them from working in government.
Purisima and the 10 other PNP officials as well as seven Werfast representatives will still face an investigation for graft, according to the Ombudsman.
Last Dec. 4, Morales suspended for six months the PNP officials, including former PNP Civil Security Group head, Director Gil Meneses who retired before the complaint was filed.
While serving his suspension, Purisima resigned as PNP chief over the Mamasapano controversy.
Petrasanta is serving another Ombudsman-ordered suspension for six months until July 5 over another case involving the loss of 1,004 AK-47 rifles that were later traced to the New People's Army during his stint as FEO chief.
Aquino’s trust in Purisima
Malacañang withheld making a statement on the Ombudsman's dismissal of Purisima and other police officers.
"We will wait for the official copy of the resolution from the Office of the Ombudsman for us to be able to properly address this matter," Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said late Tuesday afternoon.
Aquino trusted Purisima so much that he continued to consult the police official on police counterterrorism efforts even when the latter was serving a six-month suspension stemming from the Werfast contract.
But the police operation against Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, ended in a bloodbath-44 Special Action Force commandos, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members and five civilians were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25.
The incident also dealt a blow to the government's peace process with the MILF, with Aquino's priority measure, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), still not passed as he enters his last year in office.
The proposed BBL is necessary to allow the creation of a new autonomous Bangsamoro region, which was accepted by the MILF in exchange for ending its separatist war.
The Ombudsman said the PNP under Purisima gave Werfast the exclusive contract to deliver renewed firearms licenses even though it had no track record as a courier company, lacked enough capital and did not have the manpower and logistical capability to make deliveries around the country.
"Evidence shows… (Purisima) himself exerted pressure and coercion over his subordinates on behalf of Werfast," Morales said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.
The Werfast representatives implicated in the graft complaint were Mario Juan, Salud Bautista, Enrique Valerio Ireno Bacolod, Lorna Perena, Juliana Pasia and Marilyn Chua.
The Ombudsman said then FEO chief Estiles entered into a memorandum of agreement with Werfast in May 2011 without undergoing the procurement, accreditation and qualification process.
Petrasanta, as then chair of the technical working group, recommended in June 2011 that Werfast be the exclusive courier.
At the time, the Ombudsman found Werfast was not a registered corporation since it was only incorporated in August 2011 with a P65,000 (S$1,941) capital.
The company did not meet the required capitalisation of P500,000 to operate in more than two regions, the Ombudsman said.
The Ombudsman said Meneses, who was then chief of the PNP Civil Security Group, submitted a memorandum to Purisima in February 2013 recommending that the delivery of license cards by courier service be made mandatory and that Werfast had been accredited.
But the Ombudsman found that it was only in March 2013 that Meneses issued the policy on accreditation and it was only in April 2013 that the FEO Courier Services Accreditation Board (CSAB), which Meneses created in 2012, issued a resolution accrediting Werfast.
The Ombudsman said the FEO CSAB disregarded the criteria when it accredited Werfast, which did not submit a clearance from the PNP directorate for intelligence, did not have the authority to operate as a courier service and lacked accreditation from the Department of Science and Technology.
Werfast had no track record as a courier service or any other business, and turned to another courier company, LBC, to fulfil its obligation since it had no machinery, manpower and logistics capability, the Ombudsman said.
Funds siphoned off
The Ombudsman Fact-Finding Investigation Bureau earlier said that the PNP officials "siphoned off the mandatory delivery fees" the FEO had collected from gun owners for the delivery of their gun licenses.
The fact-finding bureau said Werfast contracted the services of LBC and charged gun owners P190 for deliveries in Metro Manila and P290 in the provinces. LBC was charging its clients only P90 for the service, it said.
"Evidence shows not only that Purisima knew what he was doing in signing the Meneses memorandum but he himself exerted pressure and coercion over his subordinates on behalf of Werfast," Morales said.
The PNP terminated the contract with Werfast in March 2014 amid the complaints filed by a private citizen and the Deputy Ombudsman for military and other law enforcement agencies.
Sought for comment, PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said the PNP "has not yet received any official document from the Ombudsman on the matter."
Requests for comment from the camp of Purisima and Petrasanta were unanswered as of press time. -With reports from Nikko Dizon and Julie M. Aurelio