An administration solon said President Benigno Aquino III’s speech before the graduating “Lakandula” class of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) could have been more meaningful had he announced his choice for the next chief of the 150,000-strong Philippine National Police or PNP.
“Reforms in the PNP will be useless for as long as there is no PNP chief who will have the responsibility and commensurate authority to sustain these reforms and make sure that every police officer will be effective in combating criminality,” Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian said.
In his speech, the President made a rundown on the modernization of the PNP’s firearms and equipment, which include the procurement of 74,879 units of Glock 9mm pistols, 12,399 handheld radios, and 144 patrol jeeps that were turned over to the PNP from 2010 to 2014.
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“As we tread the straight path, we are continuing to meet whatever gaps in your requirements that we may come across. Our goal: to enhance even further your abilities to effectively shoot, scoot, and communicate,” President Aquino said.
The President also reported in his speech that just this March, the PNP hired 4,859 non-uniformed personnel to focus on administrative work and allow more policemen to patrol the communities: “Also last year, we filled 9,860 PO1 positions. On top of that: this year, we allotted 1.64 billion pesos for an additional 10,000 PO1 positions.”
While Gatchalian lauded the President’s full support to the PNP in terms of new firearms, equipment, and additional personnel, the most basic issue remains and that is the appointment of a regular PNP chief, not just an officer-in-charge like the current PNP-OIC Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina.
“The appointment of the PNP chief would definitely stabilize the national police beset with organizational problems and demoralized elements over the mishandling of the SAF operation in Mamasapano,” Gatchalian, who is a majority member of the House Committee on Local Government, said.
Appointing a new PNP chief is made more urgent in the President’s own speech, in which he said: “Our challenge to the next chief of our national police force: Craft the plans that will lead to greater unity in the ranks of the police. Let us change the culture of factionalism within the PNP, where that guy is his guy, and that is his guy. We need solidarity among you, so that you may be effective protectors of our countrymen.”
Before factionalism in the PNP can be effectively addressed, Gatchalian said that President Aquino should first appoint a PNP chief who is well-respected by his peers and his subordinates and who is known to be a firm adherent of meritocracy and not favoritism or the bata-bata system.
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“Now is the best time to appoint a new PNP chief so the transformation taking place in the police force can be sustained and to arrest the demoralization now creeping among the rank and file mainly because of the current leadership vacuum,” Gatchalian said.
He also said President Aquino should now convince resigned PNP Chief Purisima to retire from the service so that his four-stars (director-general rank in the PNP) can be given to whoever the commander-in-chief wants to appoint as the new PNP chief.
In reports, the main contenders for PNP chief are PNP OIC Espina and PNP Chief of Directorial Staff Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr., who are both members of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1981. Purisima belongs to the same PMA class.
Gatchalian said Espina and Garbo are both highly qualified to become chief of the 150,000-strong national police but time is against Espina, who is due to bow out in July this year when he reaches that mandatory retirement age of 56 years old.
“This leaves General Garbo as the logical choice because he still has more than one year before he retires and his retirement will happen after the 2016 presidential elections,” Gatchalian concluded. (R. Burgos)