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April 22, 2023 Alfred P. Dalizon 2004 views

Alfred DalizonBARRING any unforeseen circumstances, the Presidential Palace is expected to announce any time today the decision of President Bongbong Marcos Jr. on whether to extend the term of outgoing PNP chief, General Jun Azurin or appoint the 29th Chief,PNP the country has known since the police force was established in 1991.

However, Gen. Azurin, the 1st PNP chief under the PBBM administration has already shut down rumors that he might get an extension saying those speculations are causing him some ‘enemies.’ For the record too, the Change of Command Ceremony and Retirement Honors for Gen. Azurin will be held at Camp Crame at 8 a.m. Monday, April 24, with President Marcos as the guest of honor and speaker.

Having been a friend to all past 28 PNP chiefs starting from the late General Cesar ‘Hari-Hari’ Nazareno to Gen. Azurin, I would say that all these 28 past Chief,PNPs have their own leadership style and skills that positively impacted on their personnel.

Many of them became very good friends since their much younger days, two in the person of Generals Art Lomibao and Sonny Razon became my ‘wedding Ninongs’ 25 years ago, and I have been with many of them from Day 1 of their stint until their retirement.

I would certainly speak of the many positive and negative traits of these PNP chiefs –as we always say, they are also human-but definitely, all have the courage, decisiveness, passion, humility and honesty to do their job as the country’s top cop.

Speaking of Gen. Azurin, I would say that I am very proud to become a friend of the member of PMA ‘Makatao’ Class of 1989 since his junior days in the force. The outgoing PNP chief was an unassuming and silent-type officer who let his job do the talking.

He was the chief of the famed PNP Highway Patrol Group Special Operations Division/Task Force Limbas when he was accused in 2000 by then Ilocos Sur Governor Luis ‘Chavit’ Singson’ of leading a purported attempt to assassinate him because of his tiff then with President Joseph Estrada. As they always say, the rest is history.

After Estrada was unseated, Jun Azurin became like a ‘pingpong ball’ being transferred from one place to another all due to his association with former PNP chief-turned Senator Ping Lacson. However, he continued to do his job although in some cases fought like a wounded tiger to defend himself from unfounded accusations by his upperclassmen.

The future PNP chief then slowly climbed his way to the top, supported by many upperclassmen, colleagues, family and friends who were with him during his ‘darkest days’ in the early 2000. He held a number of administrative and operational positions in the force, became a Benguet police director, a Cordillera police director, a Maritime Group director, a DICTM director, a PNP Comptroller, an Area Police Command-Northern Luzon director until PBBM picked him as his 1st PNP chief on August 1 last year.

I have joined the Chief in some of his sorties before and I feel shy but humbly proud when he always introduces me to his officers and men as a ‘good friend way back my junior days.’ Over the past two weeks, I have also been a witness to how he has defended himself and the PNP from accusations of wrongdoing in the fight against illegal drugs.

The well-rounded police officer said his major accomplishment in the police force is that he was able to ‘unmask the termites’ in the 227-000-strong organization who are bent on destroying the force for their self-interest. He was referring to now dismissed Sergeant Rodolfo Mayo Jr. and his co-accused in the 990 kilogram shabu bust and uncovered effort to spirit out 42 more kilos of the drug in a Manila warehouse.

He also have put good words on former PNP Drug Enforcement Group director, Brigadier Gen. Narciso Domingo who was relieved from his post in the wake of the major drug controversy. “I’m really proud of what Brig. Gen. Doming did. He tried his very best, siya ang nagumpisa, siya ang bagong mukha ng ating laban sa droga,” the PNP chief said of the member of PNPA ‘Tagapagpatupad’ Class of 1992.

With barely hours before marking his 56th birthday, I fully agree with Gen. Azurin when he said that there should be no ‘business as usual’ for previously well-entrenched drug syndicates under his would-be successor.

However, I believe that the next PNP chief should really have the integrity which means consistently doing the right thing even when it’s the more difficult option. He should also demonstrate full commitment to honor and integrity so that other officers would follow his lead.

Last Monday, the outgoing PNP chief warned PBBM to be very careful in selecting the one who will replace him once he retires from his post. “I have to warn the President, be careful in selecting my successor. I’d like to warn the President na very critical ang papalit sa akin,” he said.

As I have written before, the PBBM-Azurin meeting meant only one thing: that the President met him one-on-one because he has his full trust and confidence on the member of PMA Class of 1989. And as I have said before, extending the term of a sitting PNP chief or appointing another one from any of the 1-star up to 3-star police generals will always be a prerogative of the Chief Executive as the Commander-in-Chief.

The appointment of the next PNP chief will be crucial since he will not only be leading the organization’s war on drugs, criminality, terror and corruption but will be appointed on a time that the entire country is preparing for the scheduled Sangguniang Kabataan and Barangay elections. 2022 national and local elections.

Many police officials-active and retired-have also agreed with me that next to the President, the PNP chief may be considered to be the 2nd most powerful official in the country, having in his command the 222,000-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.

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.

Thus, President Marcos really has to make another wise and brilliant decision when it comes to choosing the next Chief,PNP who must have the good service reputation, sterling service record, untarnished integrity and the most important of them all, loyalty to the Constitution and the duly-constituted authorities.

If seniority were to be the basis of the presidential decision, the most logical successors to Gen. Azurin would be members of his Command Group: his mistah from PMA Class 1989, PNP Deputy Chief for Administration, Lieutenant Gen. Rhodel Sermonia; PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, Major Gen. Jonnel Estomo; and PNP The Chief of Directorial Staff, Lt. Gen. Mike Dubria.

However, it should also be considered that the President’s trust and confidence will always play a major role in his decision plus the recommendation from his most trusted lieutenants and security officers including DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos and of course, Gen. Azurin.

That brings to the fore other police generals from PMA who are now holding key positions in the force. Two of them are PNP Director for Intelligence, Major Gen. Benjie Acorda Jr., also of PMA Class 1991 and Police Regional Office 4-A director, Brigadier Gen. Tateng Nartatez Jr., another member of PMA ‘Tanglaw-Diwa’ Class of 1992 who will be the last member of a PMA class in the PNP to retire. Brig. Gen. Nartatez will retire on March 19, 2027.

Then there are the most senior PNP Academy graduates in the force including Lt. Gen. Rod Armamento of the Area Police Command-Southern Luzon and NCRPO chief, Major Gen. Edgar Alan Okubo.

Gen. Azurin had made it clear that he will recommend to the President a more stricter Chief,PNP. “Ang ire-recommend ko kay President ay yung mas mahigpit pa sa akin kasi naglelevel-up na tayo. Ako yata ang Chief,PNP na walang asim, walang arrive kaya ang kelangan natin na next Chief,PNP ay mas mahigpit. Let us not compromise the President, he is the only person we got para iangat ang ating ekonomya,” he said.

That’s it. May the best man win here.