Legality isn’t always the point, particularly when we expect our leaders to lead by example.
It may be legal for the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to ask that he be picked up by an official police helicopter from an exclusive island resort where he spent some “private time” over the weekend, but is this really the best use of government resources?
This is the question that begs to be answered, after the official police chopper sent to pick PNP chief Dionardo Carlos up from Balesin Island, an exclusive, members-only beach resort in Quezon province, crashed Monday morning, killing a patrolman and injuring the pilot and the co-pilot.
In a statement released to reporters on Tuesday, Carlos said he followed police procedures in requesting the chopper, and did so because his private ride off the luxury island would be delayed.
“Over the weekend, I attended the PMA (Philippine Military Academy) Alumni Homecoming at PMA, Baguio City and returned to Crame, QC Saturday afternoon,” Carlos said.
“The following day, Sunday afternoon I traveled to Balesin island for private time and scheduled to return Monday morning via private transport. However, I was informed that due to unforeseen circumstances, said private transport would only be available in the evening of Monday,” the PNP chief added.
“This prompted me to request for an admin flight to transfer/move me back to Camp Crame Monday morning so I can perform my duties. The flight directive was allowed and issued following PNP rules and regulations.”
Carlos said he regrets the accident and the death of patrolman Allen Noel Ona, and assured the public that a thorough investigation of the incident is underway.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said in a separate statement that Carlos’s supposed trip was legal even if it was for a personal function.
“He’s the CPNP (chief PNP) and as the CPNP attending official functions, it is just rightful for him to use the PNP chopper,” Año said.
“You cannot separate private time from an official time. As CPNP, it’s included in his privileges as head of the organization,” he added in Filipino.
But Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief running for president, made a distinction between official and personal functions, saying that using government resources for the latter would be problematic.
Moreover, from a policy standpoint, just because something is the established practice does not make it right.
By his own admission, Carlos asked to be fetched from a personal activity, so the only “official function” would be his return to police headquarters by Monday morning instead of in the evening. Was that worth the use of government resources—and the tragedy that followed? In these digitally enabled times when so much can be done remotely, we think not.