WITH seven days to go before PNP chief, General Dionards Carlos marks his 56th birthday on Sunday next week, the biggest question still to be answered by Malacañang is this: Will the 26th top cop’s term be extended by President Duterte or will the latter name an Officer-in-Charge to captain the police force during the national and local elections until the new Commander-in-Chief takes over in June 30?
As I have written previously, President Duterte has the discretion to designate an Acting Chief,PNP or a PNP Officer-in-Charge in case he decides not to extend the term of Gen. Carlos on May 8. However, he too has the discretion to extend the retiring Chief,PNP’s term in order to give his successor a freehand in appointing a new PNP head.
There have been a number of pros and cons regarding the issue. Some are saying why change the captain of the ship in the middle of a storm, or bench the top scorer of a basketball team in the last 2 minutes of a championship game, as they refer to the looming possibility that a new PNP head will be designated a day before the May 9 national and local elections.
However, there are also some who are saying that President Duterte would be violating the Constitution should he decide to extend Gen. Carlos and that there are also other officials who would be able to fill-up the shoes of the retiring top cop anytime, even before E-Day.
Having said that, what is needed here is for the Palace to announce its decision on the matter in order this early to stop more intrigues in the force which is gearing up to ensure an honest, orderly, peaceful and fair elections on May 9 while fighting drugs, terror, criminality and corruption at the same time.
My friend, PNP Public Information Office chief, Brigadier Gen. Roderick Alba said it all when asked to comment on DILG Secretary Ed Año’s statement that he has already recommended the names of two senior PNP generals who may replace Gen. Carlos upon his retirement.
“We will leave it to the President to decide kung sino ang ituturo na next PNP Chief following the retirement of PNP Chief General Dionardo Carlos on May 8. May mga na-submit na po na pangalan sa Pangulo and in no time, malalaman din natin ang kanyang desisyon,” said the PNP Academy Class 1992 member.
“We can somehow emphasize that the PNP is willing and ready to secure the May 9 local ang national elections. The possible change in leadership won’t diminish the value of our preparation for the upcoming polls at ito ay dahil sa epektibong pamumuno ni PNP Chief Carlos,” the PNP-PIO chief added.
Interestingly, President Duterte earlier commended the 225,000-strong police force for being a main cog in the government’s war on drugs since 2016. “I thank the PNP for being at the forefront in the fight against illegal drugs, crime and terrorism over the past six year,” said the Commander-in-Chief during the PNP Academy graduation rites last April 21.
The PNP leadership said they fully appreciated the President’s message. “It has been challenging given that the campaign against criminality never stops, with criminal elements becoming more brazen and resourceful. Idagdag pa natin ang naging epekto ng pandemya. As frontliners, may takot na posibleng tamaan ng sakit ang mga personnel namin, but we pledged to commit our full service to the Fiipinos,” Brig. Gen. Alba said.
For the record, Sec. Año did not identify the generals he recommended to take over from Gen. Carlos of PMA ‘Maringal’ Class of 1988 although he said that he picked them based on seniority and competency. According to the DILG chief, President Duterte’s choice will only serve as PNP chief in an acting capacity or serve as an OIC.
The DILG head cited the 1987 Constitution which states that no appointments in an executive position, except for temporary ones, shall be made 60 days before election day. Sec. Año however maintained that the President “has the absolute authority” to pick an acting PNP chief outside of the DILG’s recommendation and also has the discretion to extend the term of Gen. Carlos.
Sec. Año did not name the two officials in his list although it would naturally-due to seniority and competency as he said—PNP Deputy Chief for Administration, Lieutenant Gen. Rhodel Sermonia and PNP The Chief Directorial Staff, and incoming PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, Lt. Gen. Vic Danao Jr.
Lt. Gen. Sermonia of PMA ‘Makatao’ Class of 1989 will retire on January 26, 2024 while Lt. Gen. Danao of PMA ‘Sambisig’ Class of 1991 will retire on August 10, 2023. Lt. Gen. Danao is set to automatically become the PNP’s 3rd highest official and head the National Task Force-National and Local Elections 2022 with the retirement of PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, Lt. Gen. Ferdinand O. Divina, a classmate of Gen. Carlos on Monday, May 2.
It is also interesting to note that Sec. Año previously had said that President Duterte may extend the term of Carlos to pave the way for a smooth transition period between the current and incoming administration even as the Palace had said it would strictly follow the rules on ‘midnight appointments.’
Two weeks ago, the DILG chief said he will meet with President Duterte to decide whether Gen. Carlos’ term will be extended or an acting PNP chief will be appointed. Word is out in Camp Crame that the presidential decision may be known either on Monday or Tuesday.
During a previous piece, I mentioned the the scenarios ‘floating’ at Camp Crame when it comes to the PNP chief position. First is the possibility that Gen. Carlos may be given an extended term until June 30 to ensure that the new president will pick his choice to become the country’s next top cop.
Another is the scenario that Lt. Gen. Sermonia will be designated as PNP-OIC before or on the actual 56th birthday of Gen. Carlos. However, as PNP-OIC, Lt. Gen. Sermonia will not be getting his 4th star as PNP-OIC in deference to the incoming Commander-in-Chief.
When he was relieved as PNP chief in July 1998, then General Santiago Aliño still had so many months left before retirement. Aliño—the PNP chief from December 15, 1997 to July 10, 1998- retired on April 1, 2000. Thus, the one who replaced him, Gen. Bobby Lastimoso, the PNP chief from July 11, 1998 to June 15, 1999 did not earn his 4th-star.
The same fate happened to Gen. Edmundo Larroza, the one who replaced Lastimoso and became the PNP-OIC from June 16 to November 16, 1999. The official who replaced Gen. Larroza, now presidential candidate, Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson earned his 4th-star in March 2000 barely days before Gen. Aliño’s retirement.
Why? It is because the law says that there should only be one 4-star general in the PNP in the person of the Chief,PNP. Gen. Aliño was the last PNP chief to be appointed by President Fidel V. Ramos. Shortly after President Estrada took over Malacañang, he designated Lastimoso as his 1st PNP followed by Larroza and then Gen. Lacson.
Three weeks ago, some of my friends whispered to me that a number of Palace officials have been telling Carlos that he is likely to get an extension although the latter is saying that unless President Duterte himself tells him that, he will retire on May 8. In the wake he retires, the top contender to replace him, based on the principle of seniority would naturally be Lt. Gen. Sermonia.
As I have written before, President Duterte, a known gentleman is expected to give his successor a freehand in choosing the 27th PNP chief. Thus, it would be another race among the present 3-star generals in the force and the other star-rank officials who will have the blessings of the incoming administration. As the law says, the Commander-in-Chief may pick a PNP chief from any of the star-rank officials in the force, meaning the Brigadier Generals and up.