ALTHOUGH higher PNP officials said that the relief of Senior Supt. Orlando Ualat was due to professional advancement, some quarters said this came at the height of the R. Colina St. project conflict.

Senior Supt. Noel Gillamac, head of the PNP Regional Office Police Community Relations, replaced Ualat as the new Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO) director effective last Jan. 8.

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The formal turnover of command will be tomorrow.

But even before official word on the relief came out there were talks that as early as last Jan. 6, at the height of the R. Colina St. project row, that Ualat had been relieved of his post.

Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes camp believes that Rep. Nerissa Soon-Ruiz (Cebu Province, 6th district) and her husband Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Lito Ruiz had a hand in Ualat’s transfer to the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 headquarters.

But the DILG official said he had nothing to do with the relief, challenging the mayor to be man enough to face and confront him.

Sun.Star Cebu learned of Ualat’s relief last Jan. 6.

When sought for comment, PRO 7 Director Lani-O Nerez, who was in Manila that day to attend a command conference, said there was no relief order.

Two days later, Chief Supt. Abner Cabalquinto, head of the PNP Human Resource and Doctrine Development ordered Gillamac to assume as director of MCPO.

Gillamac said Nerez ordered him to stay put, and scheduled the turnover later, because of an on-going field evaluation and validation done by PNP Police Director Luiso Ticman in the region.

Ruiz was implementing her road concreting project through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on R. Colina St. when Mayor Cortes and members of Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) stopped the work last Jan. 5.

The next day, Ruiz ordered the construction workers to resume.

Appointment

The congresswoman reportedly had a verbal tussle over the phone with Ualat regarding the use of Swat to assist the mayor in stopping the road project.

Cortes’s executive adviser, Atty. Francisco Amit said the mayor has nothing against Gillamac’s appointment.

But the mayor believes that the Ruiz couple was responsible for Ualat’s transfer.

He said the Ruizes only used the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as their lame excuse, as the commission made prior announcement of a major revamp of the PNP nationwide.

In a phone interview, Lito said the DILG should not be blamed for the PNP revamp.

He said the revamp of the PNP is in the regional level and the DILG national office has nothing to do with it.

The PNP is under the DILG.

Although the orders for the relief of two police directors did not specify reasons, Nerez said the Philippine National Police always wants to train its officers for “professional advancement.”

Nerez viewed the relief of Senior Supt. Jesus Gaquing and Ualat as part of personnel management.

The PRO 7 received the relief orders Saturday but these took effect last Friday.

Gaquing headed the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO.

Nerez noted that Gaquing is set to retire a week after the elections. The ban on the transfer of civil service officials lasts until June.

With this, Nerez said election duties need to be continued as Gaquing’s retirement at this time will be detrimental to their security plans.

As for Ualat, he believes the latter was relieved so he could seek a higher position.

In the case of Senior Supt. Augusto Marquez, whose relief order from the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office was canceled, Nerez said this was probably because

there was no position available for him yet.

Nerez assured that the three officers were doing a good job, noting that two units under Marquez received awards for their good performance.

While questions were raised if some influential persons were behind the movements, Nerez said he was not aware of it.

”But even if there are speculations about this, the organization always works for an officer’s professional advancement,” he told reporters.

Nerez said PRO 7 was not the only regional office with orders for a reshuffling.

He hopes local chief executives will give the new officers a chance to prove they can run their respective police offices.

For now, Senior Supt. Erson Digal and Senior Supt. Noel Gillamac will act as officers-in-charge of the CPPO and the MCPO.

Interviewed by reporters, both officers viewed their sudden reassignment as a challenge, noting that they will be heads of these offices during the elections.

Digal said he did not know when exactly he will assume office as he still has to receive instructions. Gaquing, whom he replaced, filed for a five-day leave of absence.

As for Gillamac, who is replacing Ualat, he had mixed feelings about his relief.

“I am elated that I am given a chance to serve Mandaue City.

But I will also be leaving the Police Community Relations Division. I have become attached (to the people I work with),” he said.

He said his short stint as officer-in-charge of the Lapu-Lapu Police Station during the 2007 elections will come in handy.

Nerez instructed Digal and Gillamac not to fret about election-related issues, as they had resolutions and guidelines from the Comelec. He also told them to handle everything professionally and to make sure their actions have legal basis.