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Journal Group is 50 and counting

October 25, 2022 Alfred P. Dalizon 361 views

Alfred DalizonFIFTY years old and counting. I’m referring to the Philippine Journalists, Inc, the publisher of well-read People’s Journal, People’s Tonight and Women’s Journal which marked its golden anniversary last October 21.

I first joined PJI as a young reporter of the now defunct Times Journal in 1989 and since then has been a witness to many history in the police force. I still could not forget how Journal photographer Edd Reyes, our PJI driver and I cheated death while covering the bloody December 1989 coup. We were then covering Western Police District and the NBI.

We were in our iconic red Journal service jeep when rockets fired by a government helicopter landed just a few dozen meters away from us that day. Where were we then? We were near the Mormon’s Church along Temple Drive, Quezon City when Air Force helicopters began bombing rebel military positions inside White Plains.

We were forced to move to Airport Road in Parañaque City to save our lives and hoping to catch more good stories. However, we literally were caught in a crossfire between the rebels and loyalist troops. We prayed for our dear lives as mortar rounds began exploding near our position, just a few meters away from the seawall. The rest is history.

In 1990, I was transferred to Camp Crame and watched as history really unfolded. It was the last year of the famed Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police and months away from the birth of the PNP. I would really love to say that I have been a witness to the last days of the PC-INP and the PNP’s ‘birth pains.’

Over the past 32 years, I have known PC-INP and PNP officers and men, and literally breathe the same air they breathe. I know officers and men with solid characters, competency and integrity, those who did their job to the best of their abilities and managed to handle pressure and withstood the so-many challenges they face as members of the force.

I can always say without batting an eyelash that I have personally known all the PNP chiefs since 1991. Just like countless police officers and non-commissioned officers, I have been a good friend to many of them, both retired and still in active duty since 1991.

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.

Since 1991 to date, the PNP has already 29 Chiefs (two of them Officers-in-Charge), the 1st being the late Gen. Cesar ‘Hari-Hari’ Nazareno and the 29th, my long-time friend Gen. Jun Azurin. 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, Archie Gamboa, Pikoy Cascolan, Debold Sinas, Gilor Eleazar, Dionards Carlos, Lt. Gen. Vic Danao and last August 4, Gen. Azurin.

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 has produced the most number of PNP chiefs with dela Rosa, Albayalde, Gamboa and Cascolan. PMA Class 1971 has two in the person of Aglipay and the honest and incorruptible Ping Lacson. PMA Class 1981 has two in the person of Purisima and Espina. Generals Larroza, Espina and Danao are technically counted as the 7th and 19th and 28th PNP chiefs although they were only designated as PNP Officers-in-Charge, Larroza for five months, Espina for nearly seven months and Lt. Gen. Danao for three months.

Gen. Carlos of PMA ‘Maringal’ Class of 1988 became the 27th PNP Chief while Lt. Gen. Danao is technically the 28th head of the PNP, his photograph set to join the PNP Chiefs’ gallery at Camp Crame and nobody can erase that memory.

PJI’s 50th anniversary could have even more brighter if our very good boss, the highly-respected journalism icon and Philippine sportwriter’s doyen, Augusto ‘Gus’ Villanueva were still alive today.

Sir Gus passed away last January 14 at the age of 83. I really miss you Sir.

Since he became our Boss, almost all PNP chiefs have made it a habit to visit the Journal Group office and pay a courtesy call on him. It was really our pride and honor to be the first to be visited by a new PNP chief among the dozens of newspapers, radio and television stations in the country.

The list is long: Generals Lomibao, Oscar Calderon, Sonny Razon, Jess Verzosa, Raul Bacalzo, Nick Bartolome, Alan Purisima, Espina, Ric Marquez, Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa, Oscar Albayalde, Archie Gamboa and Eleazar have all visited the Journal Group office to talk to our Boss.

The pandemic prevented Generals Pikoy Cascolan and Debold Sinas from making the same visit. Gen. Carlos and I were also planning to meet Boss Gus in his office until the sad news came. Actually, Gen. Carlos is not a stranger to the Boss, having met him in our office during the time of Gen. Purisima and de la Rosa.

Many PNP spokespersons actually became good friends of Sir Gus. Four of them became PNP chiefs in the person of Generals Lomibao, Bartolome, Espina and Carlos. During his stint as NCRPO chief, Gen. Espina even made it a point to pay a surprise visit to Boss even without me.

To remove stress, Gen. Espina would sometimes stay in the small room of Sir Gus and have coffee or tea before leaving. When he was already the Chief,PNP, I already scheduled Gen. Albayalde’s visit to our office. But days before his appointment, I got a call from Boss Gus asking me who is in his office? When I can’t find an answer, he gave the phone to the man who turned out to be Gen. Albayalde. Yes, Albayalde visited the Journal Group twice.

During his official visit, Gen. Albayalde was surprised to see that then NCRPO chief, Gen. Eleazar and the five NCRPO District Directors were already having coffee inside the Boss’ office. It was really a wonderful busy afternoon with the PNP chief and the Metro Manila police chiefs meeting and talking with Sir Gus.

Boss Gus has been a friend to the police force, countless police generals, colonels and the non-commissioned officers since his younger days. His best friend is the late Manila City Mayor, retired Gen. Alfredo ‘Fred’ Lim’ whom I happened to meet during his past birthday celebrations in Manila Hotel.

Many former police aides told me that their bosses would require them to have a copy of People’s Journal and People’s Tonight in their tables early in the morning since they want to read something about them courtesy of Sir Gus. They include the late Fred Lim and DILG Secretary Bobby Barbers who also used to be a Manila police official like Lim.

He also had the ability to assemble top officials in one place. I remember a time when I contacted past and present PNP spokespersons for a meeting with Boss Gus in our former Makati City office. You know who came on that day? Generals Bartolome, Pol Bataoil, Sammy Pagdilao, Espina and Jun Cruz.

It was Boss Gus who actually conceptualized the highly-successful ‘Mamang Pulis’ series in People’s Journal and People’s Tonight which I have been writing since 2007. This December, the series will be marking its 15th anniversary. Yes, the PNP leadership continues to cite the Journal Group’s s invaluable role in the more than 225,000-strong -strong organization’s massive and continuing reform program and campaign against illegal drugs, corruption and terrorism despite the tremendous odds and challenges they are facing amid the new normal. It would really be an understatement to say that the PNP continues to rise up above the numerous challenges and enjoy the trust and respect of the people.