Welcome Gen. Oscar Albayalde, 22nd PNP Chief

Oscar D. Albayalde

Way before Police Director General Oscar Albayalde – ‘Odie or Oca’ to many friends and peers – would take his oath as the country’s 22nd Philippine National Police chief vice General Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa (who is moving on as Bureau of Corrections director), he already knew that his new job would require him to pursue the PNP’s massive war on drugs, criminality, terrorism and corruption with aplomb since the entire country would be watching him and would even compare him with The Rock.

It is a fact that Albayalde’s good work attitude and solid performance as National Capital Region Police Director bagged him the much-coveted post since he was not really that known to President Duterte as he has not been assigned in Davao City.

Consider this: shortly before he assumed the presidency on June 30, 2016, President Duterte has named Generals dela Rosa and PNP Deputy Chief for Administration, Deputy Director General Ramon Apolinario and Director Rene Aspera of the PNP Directorate for Personnel as the three police officials closest to his heart, all having served well under him as Davao City police chief.

The rest is history as they say. Apolinario, the current no. 2 official of the PNP from PMA Class 1985 will be retiring this coming August 31 while dela Rosa moves on as the prisons director. Aspera of PMA Class 1987 would have retired on May 7.

Months before the President made his highly-appreciated decision, (I say ‘highly-appreciated’ since even the most staunch critics of our President led by jailed Senator Leila de Lima has lauded him for his decision), the name of Albayalde was already frequently being mentioned as among the major contenders for the top PNP post but his not being from Davao City appeared to be his minus factor.

The tide slowly turned to his favor when the President started to notice his good work attitude particularly when it comes to disciplining the National Capital Region’s police force which he heads. In fact, some eyebrows were first raised when President Duterte invited Albayalde to join him in his Japan trip last year. This writer learned that Albayalde was the only police general who was on board the chartered plane that brought the President and his entourage to Japan that week. An official confided to me that, of course, General Albayalde asked Gen. dela Rosa’s permission to join the Japan trip. “If you’re invited personally by the President, then go,” Gen. dela Rosa told his mistah.

Apart from him and Gen. Apolinario, the others in the President’s short list are also members of PMA Class 1986 just like dela Rosa and Albayalde, namely: Gen. Jojo Mendez, the PNP Deputy Chief for Operations; lawyer-Gen. Archie Gamboa, the PNP Chief Directorial Staff; and Director Pikoy Cascolan, the PNP Director for Operations. There is also the name of another friend from PMA Class 1985, Director Greg Pimentel of the PNP Directorate for Intelligence.

However, although President Duterte is known for ‘favoring’ police and military generals who have been assigned in Mindanao and worked with him particularly in Davao City when he was still its mayor, he has already shattered the ‘myth’ (that he will only choose an official from Davao City as PNP chief) with his decision to appoint Albayalde, a known son of Pampanga as PNP Chief.

It is also a reality that although he always has this prerogative, extending the term of both the PNP and the Armed Forces chiefs trigger ‘internal trouble’ in the military and the police organization since the career path of other officials are being clearly affected by any extension of their chiefs.

As I have been saying again and again, the next PNP chief would be crucial to the Duterte administration’s ongoing campaign against crime and corruption as well as effort to keep the forthcoming 2019 mid-term elections as honest and as peaceful as possible.

Considered to be a very influential job, next only to the Philippine president, the PNP Chief wields tremendous power in the country. However, several considerations have to be made in the selection, foremost of which is the retirement age of the candidate and the President’s trust and confidence in him.

Age is not Gen. Albayalde’s problem. He will be retiring on November 8, 2019, meaning he will have at least 19 months as Chief, PNP if he will be allowed by the President to retire at the age of 56. If he makes well just like Gen. dela Rosa, he might even get an extension. Who knows?

Retired PNP generals have been telling me that the appointment of the PNP Chief needs to be thoroughly examined, firstly so as not to place President Duterte in a bad light, and secondly, so as not to jeopardize the institution.

In its 17 years of existence, it has been a wide belief that the PNP Chief ‘wields vast authority that he is considered the second most powerful person, next only to the President of the Republic.’ “He (PNP Chief) is considered even more powerful than the Armed Forces Chief of Staff because he is involved in the day-to-day affairs of the State,” a retired PNP chief once told me.

Officials said merit (particularly track record), fitness – physically, mentally and morally – and loyalty are the three most important criteria in the selection process. Service reputation plays a major factor in the selection as it involves perception by both the internal and the external audience on the capability of the PNP Chief to carry out his mission.

“Good reputation gains the trust and confidence of the people and motivates subordinates to do their job well,” retired PNP chief dela Rosa told me. He added that outstanding contribution or contributions by the Chief PNP-aspirant to the peace and order agenda of the past and present administrations must also be considered.

“There is a need to take into consideration the dramatic field achievements of the aspirant during his junior days up to his ascent to the top. This would indicate that indeed, he has a passion for excellence and a consummate desire to do his job with dogged determination as PNP Chief,” dela Rosa added.

Gen. Albayalde possesses all the qualifications of a PNP chief: merit, track record, fitness both physically, mentally and morally, and of course loyalty to the country and the institution and good service reputation. I wish him all the best as he begins facing a much bigger challenge.

In his farewell message to the NCRPO, Albayalde stressed the significance of the Police Officer’s Pledge and he encouraged them to live up to it. He also maintained that he strictly disciplined the Metro Manila police not to humiliate them but rather, it was his way of stripping the bad attitudes and attributes of a police officer. “Hindi ako strict. I just follow the rules and regulations. Sa mga sumama ang loob dahil sa ating pagdidisiplina. Mas masama ang loob ng PNP sa inyo dahil pinapahiya ninyo ang buong PNP. This has to stop,” he said.

As the Chief PNP, Albayalde said he will not create a new policy and would just want everybody to follow the PNP rules and to continue toeing the line. He also vowed to recognize all the deserving police officers and men but at the same time said he will show no mercy on rogues in uniform.

I’m praying that the Good Lord give our 22nd Chief,PNP the health, vision and wisdom he needs to carry out his herculean task. I also do believe that with the all-out support of his men, all concerned government agencies and the public, he can do the tremendous task ahead of him. He has proven it in Metro Manila and I believe he can do it again in the entire country. As President Duterte had said: the stricter, the better.