I’M dedicating this piece to newly-promoted Philippine National Police generals led by a good friend, new Deputy Director General Camilo Pancratius Cascolan, the PNP’s 4th highest official and a member of Philippine Military Academy ‘Sinagtala’ Class of 1986, the PMA class which has so far produced 2 PNP chiefs in the person of retired General and now 2019 senatorial candidate Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa and Gen. Oscar Albayalde. Only God and President know if there will be a 3rd.
On Wednesday, I was present when Gen. Albayalde led the oath-taking of Cascolan or ‘Pikoy’ to his mistahs, friends and other colleagues at the jampacked PNP Multi-Purpose Center. It was truly a Night of Generals with everybody present led by Gen. Albayalde and his Command Group, Deputy Director Generals Jojo Mendez and lawyer Archie Gamboa whom I saw was waiting for Cascolan at the entrance of the MPC, and of course, the man of the hour.
Members of PMA Class 1986 showed in full force to demonstrate that the PMA Class 1986 remains as solid as ever and listened as Cascolan gave a nearly 1-hour speech to thank the God Almighty, President Duterte and all the other persons who have supported him all throughout his career.
Cascolan has been a long-time friend, way back since his stint as a junior officer—he having served with distinction at the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime where he worked with a man who would later become a PNP chief, the late Gen. Larry Mendoza until he was transferred to different units including the Aviation Security Group, the Taguig City police the Compostela Valley Police Provincial Office and until he went on to become a 1-star general as Deputy Regional Director for Administration of the Police Regional Office 6 in Western Visayas.
A simple and unassuming official, he would soon rise to become a 2-star general or Police Director when he was designated as PNP Director for Operations by dela Rosa. He also had a brief stint with the National Capital Region Police Office and later the PNP Civil Security Group before he became the PNP Chief Directorial Staff where he earned his 3rd-star.
A teammate from the PNP Executive Basketball Team, I could not forget an incident on November 15, 2016 wherein Cascolan and 12 others including three other police generals were nearly killed when the Air Force Sokol helicopter carrying them crash-landed in Puerto Princesa City triggering calls for the PNP to procure more modern helicopters and other air assets.
I still can recall that afternoon when I managed to contact Cascolan and then Police Regional Office 4-B director, another good friend, now retired Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor and finally heaved a sigh of relief after both told me they and their fellow chopper passengers were A-OK.
It turned out that for the 2nd time, the Polish-supplied Sokol helicopter crash-landed after developing engine trouble in mid-air. I learned that the helicopter failed to immediately take off as its rotors were not functioning perfectly. However, after revving up for over 30 minutes, the pilot decided to fly until one of the chopper’s two engines conked out while the aircraft was around 7,000 feet above the ground. Flying only on one engine, the pilot looked for a safe place to land until the 2nd engine conked out. The pilot lost control of the helicopter which landed on its belly on an open field in Sitio Sabang in Barangay Cabayugan in Puerto Princesa City.
Of the 13 officers on board the Sokol aircraft no. 29, only then Chief Supt. Nestor Bergonia and the helicopter’s co-pilot identified as Major Mechael Yraola suffered minor injuries while the rest were unharmed.
Those unharmed include Cascolan, Mayor and Chief Supt. Amador Corpus, another PMA Class 1986 member who is now the Police Regional Office 13 director in Central Luzon and reportedly set to be named the new PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group head vice their mistah, my friend Director Roel Obusan who will be retiring on Tuesday.
The officials were conducting an aerial survey as part of their security preparations for the 6th ASEAN Chief Justices meeting then. It was nearly a close shave since Cascolan told me that the helicopter totally lost power about 10 feet from the ground and tilted as a result of the crash impact.
That incident happened 5 days after Cascolan marked his 52nd birthday. On Saturday, my friend marked his 54th birthday and 5 days later, took his oath of office as a Deputy Director General before Gen. Albayalde, getting cheers from his mistahs, subordinates, friends and family and relatives. It’s really a thing called destiny my friend.
Three hours before that major event at the MPC, I also attended the donning of rank of newly-promoted Chief Superintendents Christoper Tambungan, Crizaldo Nieves, James Mejia and Dennis Agustin. Tambungan is a member of PNP Academy Class 1987 while Mejia belongs to PNPA Class 1988. Nieves is a product of PNPA Class 1989 while Agustin is a member of PMA Class 1988. I was told that a 5th seasoned intelligence and operations officer, newly-promoted Police Chief Supt. Sotero ‘Jong’ Ramos Jr., the country’s police attache in Washington, DC is also set to take his oath of office before the Philippine Ambassador Ramos belongs to PMA Class 1990.
Tambungan, currently the Deputy Regional Director for Administration of the Police Regional Office 4-A in Calabarzon region is a known disciplinarian in the police force. Gen. Albayalde has been giving special mention to the newly-minted police general who is known for being a strict advocate of the PNP chief’s internal reform program, an official who has caught the ire of the undisciplined in the police force.
I can’t count on my fingers the number of policemen who got the goat of Tambungan after he found them literally sleeping while on duty, driving without helmet and license and wearing improper uniform. Tambungan had seized the M-16 rifles of some duty sentinels whom he caught sleeping on their post—all easy prey for thieves— and ordered the apprehension and disarming of cops he personally accosted while driving motorcycles without crash helmets and driver’s license. Those incidents have reached the attention of the PNP chief, I learned.
Nieves, the Regional Chief Directorial Staff of the National Capital Region Police Office has been a friend since the stint of Gen. Oscar Calderon as PNP chief. When he took his oath of office, he spoke of his humble beginnings, he coming from a family of policeman. He told us that his father was a retired cop who dreamt of him being a police general.
However, he ended up a becoming a street parliamentarian during the 1986 EDSA Revolution only to find himself in 1989 being on the side of the government as a young police officer already. Nieves offered his star-rank to his late father, saying he has fulfilled the latter’s wish to have a police general in the family.
Mejia is currently the deputy director of the PNP Civil Security Group. A veteran intelligence and operations man, the official saw heavy action in Mindanao until he was finally given a chance by the PNP leadership to become a star-rank officer. Last but not the least, I can’t forget Agustin, the Deputy Regional Director for Administration of the Police Regional Office 7 in Central Visayas.
I have played good solid basketball with Agustin since the days of the now defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Task Force days led by now Senator Ping Lacson where he played a key role in the success of the PAOCTF in fighting kidnapping, drug trafficking, robbery-holdup and misfits and scalawags. Agustin also shone as Bohol police provincial office director. In his speech, he mentioned the word STAR-the acronym of 4 members of PMA Class 1988—Adolfo Samala, Jun Tadeo, Agustin and Sam Rodriguez. Tadeo is also on his way to earning his star-rank, I learned.