Palace: No pressure on PNP chief BartolomeBy TJ Burgonio, Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
President Benigno Aquino III is not pressuring Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Nicanor Bartolome to retire ahead of his mandatory retirement in March next year, Malacañang said Thursday.
The President has not said anything about talking Bartolome into retiring early, said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.
“And obviously, even from the demeanor and the statements of DG Bartolome, there’s no pressure on him,” Valte told state-run dzRB radio.
Valte said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas’ designation of PNP Deputy Director General Allan Purisima as head of Task Force Halalan, which will oversee security in next year’s midterm elections, should not be seen as an insult to Bartolome.
Purisima, who was promoted last Wednesday to police deputy director general, the equivalent of a three-star general rank in the military, is widely rumored to be the designated successor of Bartolome, who is retiring on March 16 when he turns 56, the mandatory retirement age for police officials. The date falls right in the middle of the election campaign period.
Valte said it was premature to say if Purisima’s designation as head of TF Halalan was a sign that he would become the next PNP chief. Besides, the post has not been vacated, she said.
Secretary Edwin Lacierda earlier said that the President had granted Bartolome’s request that he be allowed to retire in his official retirement date so he can enjoy full retirement benefits.
The President earlier indicated that he wanted Bartolome to replace Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, who resigned following the death in August of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, ostensibly to allow Robredo’s successor, Mar Roxas, to choose his own team.
Some senior PNP officials have warned that Aquino’s insistence on a change in the PNP leadership ahead of Bartolome’s retirement could cause “disenchantment” in the 148,000-strong police organization.
A number of high-ranking PNP officials have expressed concern over the President’s decision to force Bartolome to step down before his scheduled retirement, according to three PNP officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
‘It ain’t broke’
Aquino, being the commander in chief of the military and the police, should “continue to inspire us by respecting the career path of every police official,” one source said.
“There’s no question about how President Aquino has steered the PNP in a better direction with his ‘tuwid na daan’ policy. And I think it’s also clear to him that the PNP has been able to tread that path because of (Bartolome’s) leadership,” the source said.
He noted that unlike previous PNP leaders, Bartolome and his immediate subordinates were not implicated in serious corruption issues, such as receiving payola from “jueteng,” or the illegal numbers game.
“As they say, why fix something when it ain’t broke? Why rock the boat when we are sailing smoothly?” the police official said.
“This may only bring disenchantment among us,” he said.
PNP officials cannot understand what Aquino’s basis was for saying that having a new PNP chief earlier would allow Bartolome’s successor to prepare better for the May 2013 elections, another source said.
“A good leader, like a police general, will do good even if you put him in the middle of a battle. But a bad leader would perform just as bad even if you give him all the time in the world to prepare,” the source said.
“That’s why we don’t really understand the rationale of the President,” he said.
A third source said some police officials close to Aquino may be trying to convince him to immediately appoint Purisima, who is said to be a close friend of the President.
The source said “it’s an open secret” that Roxas was disappointed by the significant rise in criminality in the metropolis when Purisima was still the head of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO).
‘Lackluster’ at NCRPO
“(Purisima’s) lackluster performance as NCRPO chief became more evident when his successor was able to outdo what he did during his first few weeks in office,” the source said, referring to current NCRPO chief Director Leonardo Espina.
Espina, Purisima’s mistah in PMA Class 1981, is believed to be Purisima’s closest rival for the coveted PNP top post.
“If the President’s reason was really to give the next PNP chief more time to prepare for the elections, then he already did that when he appointed Purisima as chief of the (Task Force Halalan),” the source said.
Meanwhile, Purisima said he has ordered a review of active private armed groups that are used by some unscrupulous politicians to ensure their election victory.
Purisima, chief of the PNP directorial staff, said the PNP would come up with the updated list of private armies next week.