By Aaron Recuenco
If a President can appoint any police general to be Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), then why does a shortlist of contenders is still being submitted to him?
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año explained that the submission of a short list of recommended successor for the highest post in the PNP was part of a long-observed process.
Under the law, the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM), which is chaired by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), is mandated to submit a recommendation to the President.
Aside from the NAPOLCOM, the outgoing chief of the PNP also submits his own shortlist of his possible successor.
“As part of the process, I have to submit a shot list to the President to assist him and spare him from the tedious process of screening and evaluating senior qualified PNP generals,” said Año.
But Año was quick to clarify that the President was not required to choose from the shortlist submitted to him by both the NAPOLCOM and the outgoing chief PNP.
“President Duterte can choose anybody from one star (Brigadier General) to three-star (Lieutenant General),” said Año.
In the case of then PNP chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the President chose him to be the top cop although he was only one-star ranked then.
The appointment of dela Rosa caused temporary rumblings in the PNP as a number of senior officers felt that they were bypassed on the seniority rules.
Dela Rosa is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1986. His predecessor, Ricardo Marquez is from PMA Class 1982, meaning, three classes of senior officers, were set aside.
Sources said the rumblings were contained with the help of PMA Class 1985, through then Lt. Gen. Ramon Apolinario and then Maj. Gen. Benjamin Magalong, of PMA Class 1982.
Following dela Rosa’s retirement, three PMA Classes were again bypassed after Duterte chose then PNP chief Oscar Albayalde, also a member of PMA Class 1986.
Albayalde’s appointment cemented the status of PMA Class 1986 as the ruling class in the PNP, as most of the juicy posts were given to his mistahs.
In the military where the strict rule of seniority is being followed, the ruling class should not be Class 1986 but PMA Class 1985 headed by the Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Noel Clement.
Amid the controversy that hounded the PNP, which forced Albayalde to quit, there are calls from some sectors that the rule of seniority be followed in appointing the next chief PNP, in order to help save the PNP from the adverse impacts of the controversy that affected the morale of its 190,000 personnel.
Asked why the rule of seniority matters, PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said it was implemented in the process of appointment and promotion primarily to protect the organization from internal squabbles and demoralization.
“If there is no seniority rule, junior officials may lobby for their positions to influential people or may even use external forces to get any position they want even if they are not yet qualified,” said Banac.
“The result would be catastrophic for the PNP as an organization. The seniority rule is important because it maintains order and discipline and prevent demoralization in the ranks,” he added.
This was the reason, according to some officials, why the shortlist submitted to the President is always composed of senior officers.