A good choice

Seven months is a long time for an important and critical government agency like the Philippine National Police to be led by an officer-in-charge. It is highly unusual and has never happened before.

The tenure of PNP OIC Leonardo Espina who is turning over the stewardship of the PNP to the newly appointed permanent PNP chief is actually longer than many Chiefs of Staff in the Armed Forces who served less than six months.

Finally however, the President has now made his choice of a permanent PNP Chief in the person of Ric Marquez, a member of PMA class of 1982. By all indications, the President took time, weighed all his options carefully and finally decided on an officer who is widely respected in the police organization.

It was a good choice. Knowing a little about the President, I believe that under normal circumstances he most probably would not have not chosen Ric Marquez because his idea of a good and snappy officer is the likes of Alan Purisima. This time, he must have realized that the coming months are crucial, not only for him but to the country as well. He needs a competent manager to run the PNP.

The country will be hosting the APEC in November and a few months later, the 2016 national elections. The President obviously wants these two important and crucial events to be managed well, most especially the 2016 presidential elections. It could determine his fate.

According to inside information, the selection process appears to have been done meticulously. This is perhaps due to the fact that most of the contenders are qualified and capable. And as it happens, except for Danny Constantino, all the other candidates worked directly with me at one time in their careers. I therefore know them all.

The first was Marcelo Garbo Jr. the senior of all the contenders and one of the youngest of the PMA class of 1981. He was the secretary of the Directorial Staff when I was the Chief of Staff of PNP Region IV in the 1990s. I therefore know his work ethics well. He was reported to be on top of the short list earlier because of his handling of the Cebu situation during the suspension of then- Governor Gwen Garcia. In the end, this appears to not have helped him.

Benjie Magalong was also a top contender and a very capable officer. He was my operations officer when I was Provincial Commander of the Province of Benguet. But after coming out with that damming Mamasapano report, few believed that he would make it to the top. He did the right thing of course and should be proud of it even if it may have caused him the top job.

Danny Constantino came out from out of the blue to contend for the top position. When he was promoted to three star rank recently, many thought he would get the job. In the end, he missed it by a whisker.

Juanito Vano was also a serious candidate and few would have objected if chosen. He also worked with me in the Northern Police District. But being a member of PMA class of 1983, it was difficult for him to bypass three members of PMA class 1982 who are equally qualified.

Ric Marquez eventually got the job. As Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said “his qualification was the sole basis for the appointment” and I can believe this. Ric Marquez worked with me when I was Director of the Northern Police District. He is competent and professional. He does a lot of studying and preparation when given a mission. Most of all, he is not controversial and can speak and represent his organization well because of his credibility.

This is something that the PNP needs right now. A leader that can rebuild the PNP image and standing in the aftermath of the Mamasapano operation. I congratulate him for his well-deserved promotion and wish him the very best in the last remaining year of his service. 

Immediately after his appointment, some people were saying that Alan Purisima had a hand in the selection. I doubt this. People seem to overestimate the so called friendship between the President and Purisima. If they are still that close, could the President have allowed the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss Purisima and deprive him of all his pension benefits? Yet, this appears to be what Malacañang did to him. It is the worst that could happen to a man in uniform.

Alan Purisima and the others like Raul Petrasanta will now spend the next few months or even years trying to get the decision reversed by the courts in order to clear their names. Petrasanta’s case is sad because his dismissal derailed his chances to go to the top of his organization. Insiders point out that one of the reasons why the President hesitated for so long to designate a permanent Chief was to try to figure out how to resolve the Petrasanta problem so that he can be appointed PNP chief.

In the end, it appears that saving Petrasanta would not be worth the trouble had the President  insisted on this choice.  The tragedy of this whole sordid episode was the collateral damage to the subordinates who simply did the bidding of their bosses. Maybe it will serve as a lesson to all the personnel in the uniform services to be a lot more careful in doing everything that their bosses want them to do.                

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