Rizal ‘politics’ affecting memorial for fallen cops

NEARLY nine years after Philippine National Police and top Rizal provincial government officials led the groundbreaking ceremony for the so-called ‘Himlayan ng mga Bayaning Pulis’ in Baras municipality, I find it odd that the construction of the final resting place for fallen cops is yet to be completed, in fact, it may even end up as dream that won’t really come true and I can’t blame other people.

Many of my sources told me that construction in the area has stopped after the Rizal local government decided to literally void their agreement with the PNP in 2010 so that majority of the nearly 8.4-hectare land can be distributed to homeless residents of Rizal instead. I can’t fault the Rizal government here. Why give a precious space to bury  dead policemen when that land can be home to thousands of homeless local residents-voters? That’s pure and simple.

This has prompted the PNP leadership to ask the benevolence of Rizal Governor Rebecca ‘Nini’ Alcantara-Ynares who is now running for mayor of Antipolo City, in retaining the ownership of the lot saying it will be her legacy to the PNP in particular and support to the Duterte government in general.

For the record, the ‘Himlayan ng mga Bayaning Pulis’ is a joint project between the Rizal provincial government then headed by Gov. Jun Ynares III—the husband of the incumbent governor—and the PNP then headed by General Jess Verzosa.

The project was aimed at establishing a perfect resting place for departed members of the police force-whether they were killed in the line of duty, or due to other causes and even old age. The ‘perfect site’ for the memorial for fallen cops was in Barangay Pinugay n Baras covering an area of about 8.3969 hectares.

Then Gov. Ito Ynares and Gen. Verzosa signed a memorandum of agreement in which the Rizal provincial government donated the subject lot to the PNP. In turn, the PNP was tasked to develop the lot into a landscaped memorial park for its uniformed personnel.

Officials then boasted that the memorial park in Baras will be a ‘must-see’ tourist site in Rizal since it will be patterned after the famous Arlington National Cemetery in the United States, the Highgate Cemetery of London and the Pere Lachaise of Paris, France.

As stipulated in the MOU, the PNP shall design the project to be a tourist landmark in Rizal and allocate funds for its completion. In addition, the PNP will also develop road networks leading to the project site and complete the project in two years.

The MOU said that the Rizal provincial government, as donor, shall assist the PNP in the implementation and management of the project whose main objectives are the following: promote the general welfare of PNP uniformed personnel by providing them a decent resting place; establish a monument that would enshrine the very essense of police profession exemplifying the philosophy of service, honor and justice; and preserve the customs and traditions of the police by providing appropriate burial rites and ceremonies to their departed personnel.

Last but not the least, the project called for the PNP to design the cemetery in such a way that it could be considered later to be a landmark for tourist destination that would help boost the economy of Baras in particular and Rizal province in general.

Supposed to be, the Baras memorial park will be the equivalent of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio. Thus, as a manifestation of the PNP’s sincerity to abide by the condition set forth in the Deed of Donation signed by Gov. Ito Ynares and Gen. Verzosa on February 16, 2010,  the 8.3969-hectate lot was titled in the name of the PNP on August 5, 2010.

The following are the series of events that happened after the agreement was signed: On June 29, 2010, a groundbreaking ceremony and lowering of time capsule at the project site was led by Gov. Ito Ynares and Gen. Verzosa. On August 12, 2010,the remains of a slain member of the elite PNP Special Action Force commando, Police Officer 2 Hector Sable was buried in the site.

On March 8, 2011, the PNP Engineering Service then headed by Chief Superintendent Cristino Campanilla entered into a contract with the International Diamond ETH, Inc. for the development of the lot with the following scope of work: mobilization, site clearing, grading of existing access road, opening of the access road extension, cutting and backfilling of the ceremonial site; installation of concrete pile at the access road; concreting of tombstone foundation, laying of tiles and granite slab at tombstone and landscaping works.

On July 7, 2012, policemen led by then PNP chief, Gen. Nick Bartolome conducted a massive tree-planting activity along the boundaries of the area prior to the planned perimeter fencing. On October 24, 2013, the PNP-ES submitted three projects namely the proposed office, installation of perimeter fence and installation of deep-weel and generator set with elevated water tank at the site.

However, on March 25, 2015, the PNP received a demand-letter from the Rizal Provincial Administrator requesting for the cancellation and reverting of the title/ownership of the donated property on the ground that there were no physical land developments introduced, meaning from June 2010 up to the last days of the former Aquino presidency, no real government budget was allocated for the project. Tsk!Tsk!Tsk!.

Following the receipt of the demand-letter, the PNP since July 1, 2016 has spent nearly P20 million to build the noble project and has cited current developments in the area made with the help of generous stakeholders like Mr. Reghis Romero and Architect Felino Palafox.

Right now, police officers and men are worried that the project really won’t be completed and that the Rizal provincial government would renege in their previous agreement with the PNP. I even heard that the remains of PO2 Sabile was already pulled out from the site by his family.

Having spent nearly P20 million for the project after nearly nine years, I wonder if the big dream in Baras will really come true. Latest report I heard is that there is still no real water and electricity in the area. This does not augur well with the  police force specially Rizal policemen who needs a gentle final resting place when their day to meet the Lord Almighty comes. Yo know whom to blame in this monster project-turned disaster.