Last Friday, President Barack Obama of the United States went on TV to announce the death of two Al Qaeda hostages. One was an American and the other was Italian. Both were aid workers.
It seems that in spite of the huge budget of the intelligence services of the US that is even bigger than the national budgets of many countries, it failed to ascertain that the two hostages were being kept in the same compound where an Al Qaeda leader was targeted for a drone strike last January.
In his TV appearance, President Obama took responsibility and blame for the mistake and apologized on behalf of the American government for the deaths of the two hostages. This is in contrast to the way our own President handled the Mamasapano encounter. President Aquino has put the blame on almost everyone except himself. Had the President done an Obama, he could have spared the country so much anguish and trauma which is affecting the Philippine National Police to this day.
Up to now, the President has not yet appointed a permanent PNP Chief. We now have an organization that is manned by many officers-in-charge. The latest designation of senior officers to some important units of the PNP are all OICs. Unless the rules have changed since my retirement, an OIC cannot exercise all his prerogatives as commander. He cannot, for instance, fully exercise his disciplinary powers; there are other limitations. Why this is allowed to continue is difficult to understand.
One other negative effect of appointing OICs is what it does to the careers of officers scrambling to be promoted before retiring, when weeks or even a couple of months are vital. If this situation continues, there will be many officers who will be unable to fulfil their long cherished ambitions to become Police Generals all because of politics or indecision. There have been a lot of public discussions as to why the President has not appointed a permanent PNP Chief inspite of calls that he appoints a permanent replacement of Director General Alan Purisima.
The reason that he gave why PNP OIC Leo Espina was not appointed is the length of the time that he has to serve. It would be so short because of his projected retirement on July. But this could not be the only reason because there have been short stints in the past because of the retirement system of the Police and the Military. It is not uncommon for instance to have an AFP Chief of Staff or PNP Chief who will only serve three to six months. The likelier reason is politics.
Ever since I can remember, the PNP has always been viewed by politicians making a run for national positions as crucial to victory. Part of the reason for this was that there were individuals or groups who would make their services available to politicians seeking national office in exchange for appointments to senior positions in the PNP should those politicians win. This could explain why not all those appointed as Chief of the PNP were or are necessarily the best of the lot. Closeness is an important consideration—as we saw in the case of Alan Purisima. But the idea that a politician can use the PNP as an institution to influence the outcome of a national election is a fallacy, unless the effort is brazenly open and blatant.
With the stakes of the 2016 presidential elections so high, it is understandable that the President and his political allies are timing the appointment of a permanent PNP Chief so that whoever will be appointed will still be there during the May 2016 elections. In spite of his pronouncement of the competence of General Espina, the good PNP OIC does not really enjoy the confidence of the President. This is a pity. Could it be Police Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo who will be appointed after July? Maybe, but he also will retire sometime on February or March next year and will not be around for the May elections. Information has it that right now he is the top dog in Camp Crame and not OIC Leo Espina.
What the President can do is perhaps wait for the proper time to appoint someone of his liking. Many in Camp Crame are speculating that this someone is Police Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta, a member of the Class of 1984 of the Philippine Military Academy, a class to which Secretary Manuel Roxas has been adopted. But even this appointment could be problematic. Petrasanta is under suspension until June of this year. And even if his suspension is lifted, his case has not yet been dismissed. That presents a problem to the administration. If however, the case is dismissed, then the appointment can go on but of course, the appointment will be under a cloud of suspicion. By all accounts, however, he does enjoy the confidence of the President; some say even the presidential sisters want him appointed as PNP Chief.
Morale in Camp Crame and whole of the PNP has gone down to the gutter in spite of what the Palace is saying. Many senior officers are disillusioned. This is not good for the administration if there is really a plan to use the PNP in the 2016 elections. My unsolicited advice to the Palace and Secretary Roxas is to study carefully what is going on in the PNP and do what is right before the situation deteriorates, wherein the organization becomes a big liability to the administration instead of the asset that they want it to be. One must avoid playing god with people’s lives.