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PNP and AFP ‘revolving doors’

Several years ago, just before proceeding to Camp General Aguinaldo in Quezon City, I said to myself that easily the best oiled door in the Philippine bureaucracy is the one that leads to the office of the AFP Chief of Staff. It revolves with increasing regularity once a year (at times, thrice a year) to welcome the new occupant and just as he begins to warm his chair, the guessing game as to who will replace him starts immediately. There is another door in the government bureaucracy that is just as well oiled as the one at Camp Aguinaldo. It is the door leading to the office of the Chief, PNP. For a while the position was known as the Director General, PNP, until legislation brought it back to its original title.

With the exception of these two agencies, most bureau heads stay in office for three to four years. My favorite observation: The law gives my barangay chief a term of three years in office, while the head of the organization responsible for law and order in the land serves for from two months to less than two years in office.

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Yesterday, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PMA Class of 1987, assumed command of the Philippine National Police, succeeding his classmate Gen. Debold Sinas whose tenure in office was marked by a number of controversies that tarnished the image of the law enforcement organization. In the five years of President Duterte’s administration, the PNP has had six chiefs with four from PMA Class of 1986 and two from PMA Class of 1987. Gen. Ronald dela Rosa, now senator, served for a year and 10 months. He was followed by Oscar Albayalde, one year and six months; Archie Gamboa, one year; Camilo Cascolan, two months; and Sinas, six months. General Eleazar retires on Nov. 13 this year, giving him also six months as Chief, PNP. With his remaining time in office, Mr. Duterte has one more appointment for PNP chief.

Eleazar’s appointment has been met with much praise and optimism. One House leader described him as “a man of action in the resolution of cases.” Another called his designation as so far “the best of presidential appointments.” In spite of his excellent record, it should be noted that Eleazar was bypassed by Sinas in the race to the top. Eleazar already sported three stars while Sinas had only two but the powers-that-be picked Sinas from below — for no special achievement or accomplishment — to become Chief, PNP ahead of Eleazar. In fact earlier, Sinas had to face a Senate hearing looking at the upsurge of killings in his area of responsibility. It was an extra special accommodation that even a violation of health protocols by Sinas was set aside to assure his promotion. Sinas will be remembered in PNP lore as the “mañanita” chief. This is the sad part of the PNP leadership story.

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In the case of the AFP, our military organization tasked to defend the nation’s sovereignty, has had nine, yes, nine chiefs of staff in the five years of Mr. Duterte. Does anyone believe that such an arrangement can contribute to the security we need to face internal and external threats? Right now, our attention is focused on the West Philippine Sea dispute with China. It is good to uphold and protect what rightfully belongs to the Filipino people. But let us keep in mind that we face a host of internal problems and issues that have to be addressed and corrected if we wish to present any semblance of unity and strength in the face of aggression. Our allies are amused about the AFP leadership situation. They cannot understand how the AFP chief of staff can be replaced so often when common sense and sound management practice dictate the need for stability and continuity for any commander of consequence.

Last week, I was watching the change of command ceremony of the US Indo-Pacific Command in Honolulu. The Indo-Pacific Command was formerly known as the US Pacific Command. It is the largest of the unified combat commands of the United States, and is responsible for military operations in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Any action that takes place in the West Philippine Sea requiring US response would be addressed by this command. Admiral Philip Davidson was relinquishing his position after serving three years, to Admiral John Aquilino. In their introductory remarks, they recognized the presence of allied representatives, including those from South Korea and Japan. I did not hear any mention of a Philippine military presence.

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TAGS: AFP, PNP, Presidential Appointments, Ramon J. Farolan, Reveille
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