Search for next PNP chief

August 18, 2020

EXACTLY 14-days from now, Philippine National Police chief, General Archie Gamboa will be retiring from the force at the age of 56 with still no word on who will really replace him as the 24th PNP chief.

As I have been saying before, next to the President, the Chief,PNP is believed to be the 2nd most powerful official in the country, having in his command the 209,000-strong police force which has presence in virtually all part of the country or from Aparri to Jolo.

Thus, the PNP chief must possess the competency and integrity to handle the job as he will be answerable to both the PNP’s internal and external audience. He should have the dogged determination to do the job, the needed track record and service reputation, a ton of contribution to the country’s peace and order campaign, and most importantly, the loyalty to the Constitution and the duly-constituted authorities.

Having covered all the PNP chiefs since the national police force was created in 1991, I have known how they moved and talked, their hand and body signals a giveaway if they wish to do this or that. Many of them became good friends even after retirement too.

The law says that the President, as the Commander-in-Chief shall appoint the PNP chief from among a list prepared by the Napolcom of ‘the most senior and qualified officers in the service” given that the prospect appointee has not yet retired or within six months from their compulsory retirement age.

The law also says that the “lowest rank of a qualified appointee shall be the rank of Police Brigadier General.  As PNP chief and an Ex Officio member of the Napolcom, the Chief,PNP  is given the power to command and direct the police force. Since 1991 to date, the PNP has already 23 Chiefs, the 1st being the late Gen. Cesar ‘Hari-Hari’ Nazareno and the latest Gen. Gamboa. It should be interesting to note that all the PNP chiefs we have were products of the prestigious Philippine Military Academy.

Those who followed Nazareno are the following: Raul Imperial, Umberto Rodriguez, Recaredo Sarmiento II, Santiago Aliño, Bobby Lastimoso, Edmundo Larroza, Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson, Larry Mendoza, Jun Ebdane, Egay Aglipay, Art Lomibao, Oca Calderon, Sonny Razon, Raul Bacalzo, Nic Bartolome, Alan Purisima, Dindo Espina, Ric Marquez, Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa, Oca Albayalde and Gamboa.

Two of them: Nazareno and Mendoza have long passed away. Two became Senators in the person of Lacson and dela Rosa. Two are lawyers in the person of Bacalzo and Gamboa.

So far, the PMA ‘Sinagtala’ Class of 1986 had produced the most number of PNP chiefs with dela Rosa, Albayalde and Gamboa. PMA Class 1971 has two in the person of the honest and incorruptible Lacson, and Aglipay. PMA Class 1981 has two in the person of Purisima and Espina.  Generals Larroza and Espina are technically counted as the 7th and 18th PNP chiefs although they were only designated as PNP Officers-in-Charge, Larroza for five months and Espina for nearly seven months.

I heard from some officials that DILG Secretary Ed Año who sadly has tested positive twice for COVID-19 and I’m praying he’ll get well soon—is not keen on recommending the extension of Gen. Gamboa’s term after September 2. In fact, Año—a member of PMA Class 1983 who unfortunately did not produce a single Chief,PNP—had told reporters that if he were to decide, the next PNP chief must have a good career pattern with no pending case in court.

“He must be credible with a good career pattern and meritorious record, senior and no pending case in court. But the  President has the prerogative to choose any general even outside the shortlist,” Año was quoted as saying.

Año had said he had submitted his list of candidates to replace Gen. Gamboa. My friends from the force said they have not seen the SILG’s list but obviously, it contains the names of PNP Deputy Chief for Administration, Lieutenant Gen. Pikoy Cascolan; PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, Lt. Gen. Gilor Eleazar; and PNP Chief Directorial Staff, Lt. Gen. Cesar Binag.

All of the three have the qualities to become an ideal PNP Chief.  Lt. Gen. Cascolan, a classmate from PMA Class 1986 of Gen. Gamboa has proven his worth in the past and is even credited with being the ‘brains’ behind the successful war on drugs of the police force since the start of the Duterte administration.

A good friend and a basketball teammate since the late 90s, Gen. Cascolan’s only setback is that he will be retiring this coming November 11. Both Lt. Generals Eleazar and Binag are also very capable members of PMA ‘Hinirang’ Class of 1987. Eleazar, currently the Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander  will retire on November 13, 2021 while Binag will bow out of the service on May 24 next year.

I will also mention the other ‘Chief,PNP-tiables” in my mind. They are NCRPO chief, Major Gen. Debold Sinas and PNP Director for Operations, Maj. Gen. Ringo Licup, both of PMA Class 1987  and of course, former Davao City police chief, now Calabarzon police director, Brigadier Gen. Vic Danao of PMA ‘Sambisig’ Class of 1991.

To my mind, all these generals have really proven their worth in the past and present. However, the choice will always be made by our President, no one else. President Duterte really have to make a good final decision  with his presidency coming to an end, some 22 months from now.  This is not a lottery where the lucky numbers will be picked.

This has something to do with service reputation, sterling service record, untarnished integrity and the most important of them all, loyalty to the President and the Republic. Back to Gen. Gamboa, it’s sad to say that some people are trying to cast doubts on his integrity two weeks before his retirement.

I’m referring to the big fuzz over his dinner in Baguio City. The DILG, Mayor Benjie Magalong and Gen. Gamboa have all denied the PNP chief had a big party complete with a band in the city last week. All protocols were observed too by the top cop when he and his group motored to Baguio to be given a briefing on the peace and order situation in Cordillera region.

The PMA and Gen. Gamboa himself decided to forgo with the traditional ceremonial parade for a retiring PNP chief due to the pandemic. Saddening because the PNP chief was not given the opportunity to say his farewell words before the PMA cadets and other colleagues. It would be a fitting tribute for the man who had made records in reducing the country’s crime rate and even hauling around P11 billion worth of shabu in just seven months.