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The race for PNP chief: Lieutenant Gen. Rhodel O. Sermonia

April 10, 2023 Alfred P. Dalizon 12804 views

SermoniaA CLASSMATE of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, General Rodolfo S. Azurin Jr. from Philippine Military Academy (PMA) ‘Makatao’ Class of 1989, Lieutenant Gen. Rhodel O. Sermonia is currently the PNP Deputy Chief for Administration, the 2nd highest position in the 227,000-strong police force.

He had been a serious contender for the top PNP post during the previous Duterte administration and is now making a final pitch to lead the organization. If he gets the nod of President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ R. Marcos Jr., Lt. Gen. Sermonia will be heading the force for only nine months since he will be retiring from the service on January 26 next year, his 56thbirthday.

Described as the ‘Ironman General,’ Lt. Gen. Sermonia is happily married to Mrs. Cherry Pie Lino-Sermonia. The couple have three daughters namely Nicola Renee, Amanda Celine and Alexa.

The official is known for having been meritoriously promoted twice for risking his life in police anti-criminality and anti-insurgency operations. He was also awarded thrice by past Philippine presidents for being adjudged as the PNP Best Junior Officer of the Year.

Apart from that, he was once a winner of the Metrobank’s Search for Outstanding Policemen in Service, a recipient of the coveted PMA Cavalier Awards for police operations as well as the prestigious Civil Service Commission’s Presidential Lingkod ng Bayan and Dangal ng Bayan awards.

During his 36 years of service in the military and the police force, Sermonia consistently advocated for good governance to boost the image of the organization.

The official also strongly believes that people mobilization is an important trust-building mechanism in pursuing a successful campaign against criminality, terrorism, illegal drugs abuse and corruption in public office.

Over the years, he has been known for his so-called ‘Relentless Outstanding Service’’ to ensure the general welfare of the people.

Prior to his designation as TDCA, he served as Area Police Commander of Visayas for two-months and formulated the first ever Framework on Localized Peace Engagement, which became a standard to end local communist armed conflict and ensure peace and development in insurgency-affected areas in the country.

Lt. Gen. Sermonia was also once a PNP The Chief of the Directorial Staff and a PNP Deputy Chief for Operations

He also used to be a PNP Director for Operations, once headed the PNP Directorate for Police Community Relations and before that, the Police-Community Relations Group which is now known as the Police-Community Affairs Development Group.

The official also previously served as Regional Director of the Police Regional Office 3 in Central Luzon and a Bataan Police Provincial Office director. During his much younger days, he was assigned in a number of PNP units and offices including the PNP Directorate for Intelligence, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the National Capital Region Police Office.

He also used to be spokesperson of the National Capital Region Police Office; was once chief of the Regional Highway Patrol Unit 5 in Bicol region; chief of the Intelligence and Investigation Branch of the Cavite Police Provincial Office and also previously commanded the Cavite City, Bacoor City and Dasmariñas City Police Stations in Cavite.

Lt. Gen. Sermonia is a known advocate of strong police-community relations in order to build trust and understand the needs of the community. For him, it is more important for the police to work with the community to prevent crimes, terrorism and other lawless elements.

To do this, he said the police and the community must build its relationship in a strong foundation of trust and cooperation to ensure greater success in preventing crimes, rather than resolving crimes whose impact on the society is far-reaching and deeply wounding.

He showed his wares as a PCR man since his stint as Cavite City police chief wherein he introduced innovative methods to empower the citizenry as a strong police partner in fighting and addressing criminality.

It was him who started the first and only rescue center for women who have become victims of domestic violence in Cavite City. While assigned at the PNP-CIDG, he co-authored and organized the Community Investigative Support (CIS) and served as its program director.

The CIS was able to recruit more than 100,000 members who served as PNP ‘force multipliers’ across the country and helped the CIDG accomplish more both in administrative and operational aspects.

While still chief of the Foreign Liaison Division of the PNP-DI in 2013, he partnered with various foreigners’ groups in the country to proactively address crimes and other problems facing foreign nationals. The partnership gave birth to groups such as the Foreign Law Enforcers’ Community in the Philippines, the Filipino-American Law Enforcers Organization and the Foreign National Keepers Network.

As Bataan police director in 2014, he pursued the war on drugs by creating the Bahay-Pagbabago Reformation Center which gave drug dependents in the province the opportunity to undergo treatment and rehabilitation and become more productive citizens.

The program paved the way for the declaration of Bataan as the 1st province in the country to be declared ‘drug-free’ by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) which also cited the Bataan experience as the model for the nationwide implementation of the DDB’s Balay Silangan project.

He earned his 1st-star as director of the PCRG where he formed the Global PCR Program to assist Overseas Filipino Workers and their families in case they need government assistance and started expanding his Kabataan Kontra Droga and Terorismo program in Bataan as well as the Kaligkasan project which is a tourist-oriented police program.

Lt. Gen. Sermonia became the PRO3 director in November 2019 and launched a number of programs to address criminality, insurgency, corruption and illegal drugs while at the same time helping to mitigate the effects of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

Then Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security for Region 3, now Defense chief Carlito G. Galvez Jr. called for the adoption of all six programs of Sermonia for local peace zone implementation.

Of the several major contenders for the top PNP post, Sermonia also has the distinction of being the most controversial, an official who in the past has attracted the attention of the country, even senators.

Before the May 2022 presidential election, he was accused by former PNP chief-turned Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ M. Lacson of alleged ‘politicking.’ A defeated 2022 presidential candidate, Lacson criticized Sermonia for allegedly using a portion of the anti-insurgency budget to instruct the listing of names among barangay residents.

The veteran lawmaker maintained that the said PCR program may be used for election purposes as he singled out Sermonia for allegedly organizing a Coalition of Lingkod Bayan Advocacy Support Group and Force Multipliers which could be used in politics when the role of the police should be limited to internal security only.

However, Sen. Lacson admitted that Sermonia is a good officer and one who performs well in his assignments since his junior days.

The PNP leadership and even another former PNP chief, now Sen. Ronald ‘Bato’ M. de la Rosa defended those police-community relations programs to harness the support of the citizenry in the fight against criminality, terror and corruption and said they have nothing to do with politics. Sen. de la Rosa also said that the program organizing OFWs and their families started when he was appointed by President Duterte as his first PNP chief in 2016.

Lt. Gen. Sermonia likes to recall an incident during his junior days when former President Duterte, then a Davao City congressman defended him over a controversial police operation during the short-lived Joseph Estrada administration.

It turned out that that Sermonia led an anti-narcotics operation in Caloocan City in April 2000 which led to the shooting of a son of Representative Luis ‘Baby’ Asistio,’ then a known Estrada ally.

Asistio’s son Luis alias ‘Piting,’ then 32, and his live-in partner were both shot during the buy-bust operation conducted by a team of detectives from the Bulacan CIDG led by then Chief Inspector Sermonia.

Sermonia and his team said they were forced to defend themselves when the young Asistio sensed he was being entrapped and started firing at them with his pistol in Kaunlaran Village Recovered from the suspect’s possession were an unlicensed cal. .45 pistol with a magazine containing 10 live ammunition, some 214 grams of shabu worth P400,000, the marked money, several drug paraphernalia and dried marijuana leaves.

Then Rep. Asistio, a known member of the so-called ‘midnight cabinet’ of Estrada or his very close friends accused Sermonia and his team of concocting evidence against his son.

However, Rep. Duterte, then already known as very much against illegal drugs defended him from Asistio’s charges which could have ruined his entire career.

Sermonia said that without then Rep. Duterte’s help, he may have not reached his present position.

The 3-star general’s known maverick approach in fighting criminality specifically illegal drugs, insurgency and terrorism has earned him accolades from many politicians and the public.

As an officer of the PNP-CIDG, he got involved in the neutralization of elusive members of the Patinio Kidnapping-for-Ransom Group, the killing of six armed members of the dreaded Kuratong Baleleng Group during a shootout in Dasmariñas City; and the death of two ranking New People’s Army officers following a gunbattle in General Trias, Cavite.

As chief of the CIDG’s Task Force Maverick, he was also responsible in the neutralization of seven members of two notorious carnapping, robbery-holdup and hijacking syndicates in Metro Manila and Laguna province.

To date, Lt. Gen. Sermonia is already a recipient of over 200 medals and other decorations.

(next: MAJOR GENERAL JONNEL C. ESTOMO)

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