MANILA — Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo on Monday has urged Malacañang to waste no time in naming a new Philippine National Police (PNP) chief “to fully restore order, discipline and the chain of command, and to move the 149,000-member force forward.”
“Malacañang has to appoint a new PNP chief at once, considering that the next presidential election is just 15 months away, and whoever is named may need at least six months to get accustomed to the job,” Romulo said in a statement.
The country’s presidential elections are often marred by campaign violence, including political killings that threaten peace and order.
“We expect the forthcoming new PNP chief to push hard for a re-energized force whose officers are wholly committed to the utmost benchmarks of competence, skill, conduct and behavior,” Romulo pointed out.
His remarks came shortly after published reports indicated that at least seven senior officers are being considered to replace Director General Alan Purisima, who resigned as PNP chief amid the controversial Mamasapano encounter that led to the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos on Jan. 25.
The seven potential replacements are officer-in-charge (OIC) Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina; Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr.; and Directors Carmelo Valmoria, Ricardo Marquez, Benjamin Magalong, Danny Constantino and Juanito Vaño.
President Benigno Aquino III previously said he intends to sit down with Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas II to select the new chief of the PNP, which has been temporarily led by Espina as OIC since December.
Both Espina and Roxas were kept out of the loop by Purisima in the Mamasapano operation.
The military was also kept in the dark by Purisima, who supposedly remotely directed the SAF action that involved a total of 392 commandos.
Critics have blamed the deadliest encounter in PNP history on the “breakdown of command” during the operation to neutralize global terrorist and bomb maker Zulkifli Abdhir, alias Abu Marwan, a Malaysian national, and his Filipino protégé, Basit Usman.
Marwan was believed to have been killed in the SAF raid. However, as of Monday, Marwan’s name was still in the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s online list of 30 “most wanted terrorists,” with a reward of up to USD5 million for information leading directly to his capture.
The 44 SAF commandos were killed when their assault team and a blocking force were overwhelmed by rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
The senior House leader said the heroism of the so-called SAF 44 ought to help inspire badly needed professionalism in the PNP, which has been reeling from rampant corruption and misconduct.
“The courageous dedication to duty of the SAF 44 should now encourage every police officer to live up to the highest standards of professional law enforcement service,” Romulo stressed.