De Leon and Mitra

October 19, 2019

ONE is a member of Philippine Military Academy ‘Makatao’ Class of 1989 while the other is a graduate of Philippine National Police Academy Class 1989. I’m referring to two known ‘Davao Boys’ who have been designated to new key positions in the PNP: Brigadier General Valeriano ‘Val’ de Leon and Colonel Rommil Mitra.

De Leon of PMA Class 1989 is the erstwhile PNP Firearms and Explosives Office director in Camp Crame who this week assumed his new post as Police Regional Office 7 director in Central Visayas. On the other hand, I was informed by highly-placed Camp Crame sources that Mitra of PNPA Class 1989 will be be taking over as the new PNP-FEO director next week, a position that would earn him his star-rank.

De Leon replaced new National Capital Region Police Office director, Brig. Gen. Debold ‘Dodong’ Sinas,’ his upperclassman from PMA ‘Hinirang’ Class of 1987. The boyish-looking official also made history as the first member of PMA Class 1989 to become a police regional director under the Duterte administration.

De Leon is the 2nd youngest member of PMA Class 1989 after Brig. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia of the Police-Community Affairs and Development Group, formerly known as the Police-Community Relations Group. Sermonia who will be retiring from the police force on January 26, 2024 also applied for the top PRO7 post but lost to his classmate, I was told.  On the other hand, de Leon will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on May 7, 2023.

De Leon had made history as one of the longest-serving PNP-FEO directors. He has been the PNP-FEO chief since May 2017 or for more than 30 months before he was designated as PRO7 director while the PNP is still reeling from the ‘Ninja Cops’ controversy which triggered the resignation of Gen. Oscar Albayalde.

When he assumed his post, he said these words: “Now we are at crossroad because of some controversies hounding the PNP but let us not be swayed by these realities because what we need now is a true and dedicated leader to lead our 190,000-strong police organization. You know, it doesn’t’ matter who will become the next Chief,PNP. What matters is that he can be able to restore the affected image of the PNP.”

De Leon’s stint with the PNP-FEO was marred by charges hurled against him by the former PNP leadership headed by Gen. Albayalde regarding alleged falling revenues of the PNP-FEO.  During an investigation, de Leon however successfully defended himself from his accusers after presenting proof that in fact, he managed to steady and even increase the PNP-FEO revenues during his stewardship of the unit.

As PRO7 director, de Leon will be overseeing the safety and security of some seven million residents of Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor and Negros Oriental provinces where Sinas had carved a name by launching a massive crackdown against drugs, criminality, terror and corruption.

On his first day, he ordered a more aggressive campaign against illegal drugs and illegal gambling and rogues in uniform in the region. The native of Tuguegarao City used to be a PRO11 Deputy Regional Director for Operations in Southern Mindanao.

He also served as OIC of the Davao City Police Office during the investigation of the infamous September 2, 2016 bombing of a local night market which killed 14 and injured at least 70 others. The new Central Visayas police director is a brother of retired Army Gen. Benito de Leon, a member of PMA Class 1981 who, in September 2016 was appointed by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as the chief of the city’s Public Safety and Security Command Center.

On the other hand, Mitra, I was told will be assuming the top PNP-FEO post on Tuesday, a position that will make him the latest member of PNPA Class 1989 who has been given the chance to occupy key PNP positions to get the much-coveted star-rank. At present, there is only one PNPA member who is a Police Regional Office director in the person of Brig. Gen. Froilan Quidilla of PNPA Class 1987.

The highest-ranked PNPAyer or ‘Lakan’ in the PNP right now is Brig. Gen. Gilbert Cruz of PNPA Class 1986 who will be getting his 2nd-star as Director of the PNP Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Northern Luzon. Mitra’s classmates from the PNPA include another known ‘Davao Boy,’ Southern Police District director, Brig. Gen. Noli Bathan and soon-to-be Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo of the Quezon City Police District.

However, let’s give it to the official who used to be assigned in Davao City and in fact was among those previously accused by a policeman-turned whistleblower as being a member of the so-called ‘Davao Death Squad,’ charges which were previously described by Malacañang as nothing but a “demolition job” orchestrated by groups “affected by reforms” under the Duterte administration.

As I have said before, getting a star-rank position in the PNP is truly a mean feat for the PNPAyers who have to jockey it out with Peemayers who understandably have the lock in the organization with the PNP chief, his Command Group and almost all members of the PNP Directorial Staff coming from the elite Fort del Pilar institution in Baguio City.

As PNP-FEO director, Mitra, who used to be a Makati City police chief and later a member of the Command Group of the PRO3 in Central Luzon, will have to pursue reforms made by his predecessors in line with the ongoing PNP reform program aimed at giving the public fast and efficient service. He faces a tall order since the PNP-FEO is no stranger to anomalies in the past.

As PNP-FEO director, Mitra will be in-charge of supervising the unit which has the regulatory function to study, review and validate all applications for gun and explosives licenses and permits in accordance with Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulations Act of 2013.

It’s good that the activation of the PNP One-Stop Shop in Camp Crame has in some point eliminated the age-old problem of ‘fixers’ in the FEO. What is needed right now is to implement a really fool-proof computerized system and do away with two or more computer systems which breeds corruption. Right now, the PNP-FEO has to show that it really deserves to be called the top revenue earner in the police force without any whiff of corruption, a word which is completely abhorred  and despised by the former Davao City mayor.