IN their apparent haste to “secure” electronics and communications engineer Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. on February 5, lawmen belonging to the Police Security and Protection Office (PSPO) used their personal cars in “escorting” him around Laguna and Metro Manila.
But the question remains: What is a high-ranking police official doing with a multi-million Volkswagen Touareg while on official mission to secure a “simpleng probinsiyanong Intsik” (simple Chinese man from the province)?”
The 2007 Volkswagen Touareg SUV
This was one of the questions that had to be fielded by Senior Supt. Paul Mascariñas, the deputy chief of the PSPO in yesterday’s Senate hearing.
Senator Panfilo Lacson revealed that Mascariñas’s black Volkswagen Touareg is owned by a certain Eric Estomata who lives in Tomas Morato, based on records the lawmaker secured from the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
Another vehicle that figured in Lozada’s unwanted tour of Laguna and Metro Manila was a white Toyota Fortuner registered to a certain Marciano and Mark Dennis Calibana of Tabang, Plaridel, Bulacan. Lozada was made to ride a white Toyota Altis, which, while sporting a civilian-looking plate number, is actually known to lawmen as a government security vehicle.
A Volkswagen Touareg can cost upwards of P2.7 million. Only one showroom, based in Makati, offers this brand and make. Many buy it through the so-called “gray market,” or private importers. Asked to explain his choice of vehicle that day, Mascariñas said the imported car was “lent” to him by a “friend.”
“As much as possible, we discourage the use of private cars in our operations,” says Gilbert San Diego, an investigator at the National Police Commission (Napolcom), which has administrative control and operational supervision over the Philippine National Police (PNP). He admits some lawmen do borrow or use their personal vehicles while on duty, but the practice is discouraged when they join operations.
A police source says Mascariñas’s use of the borrowed car is one of several indications that the grant of “security escorts” to Lozada was hurriedly made. The source says requests for security usually take one or two weeks to be approved, since the threat and the protection entailed are assessed before PSPO men are allowed to be deployed.
While Lozada’s security detail was ordered by PNP chief Avelino Razon himself, the source says the use of the lawmen’s private vehicles, borrowed or not, shows that the mission was really unplanned. Had there been time to plan, the source says a vehicle from the Traffic Management Group (TMG) could have been tapped for the purpose, especially since it was ordered by the PNP chief himself.
There are also questions being raised as to why the PSPO was tapped for the job. The PSPO has some 1,500 men. Created in 1991, it is tasked mainly to provide security for the Vice President, senators, congressmen and diplomats, and to support the Presidential Security Group (PSG) in protecting members of the First Family. While the PSPO also provides protection to private individuals, these are mostly people of high social pedigree. The source says the Aviation Security Group or the Special Action Force could have been the more logical choice for Lozada’s security detail.
The source said the flurry of activities, which set aside the PSPO’s standard procedures, shows how important Lozada was to those who were behind the airport operation. “It is very obvious that the processing of the request for security was expedited. You will see the malice and questionable purpose there,” said the source.