The “greasy” proposition of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Alumni Association to let graduates of the country’s foremost military school join the police force does not appear palatable to Malacañang.
President Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, quickly shot down the idea.
Lacierda took to task Reuben Theodore Sindac, Philippine National Police spokesman, for his public pronouncement on Monday likening PNP Academy graduates to “fried chicken” and PMA graduates to crispy “pata” (pig knuckles) to point out that these officers should go together.
Lacierda reminded Sindac that the Constitution clearly states that the police force is civilian in character, and should remain that way for the foreseeable future.
Sindac has apparently backtracked, telling Lacierda that “he was just laying down the options, but he has never (endorsed the reentry of military into the police force).”
Recalling his conversation with Sindac, Lacierda said at a briefing on Wednesday: “I asked him categorically: ‘Did you make a statement to the effect that you want the military back in the PNP?’ He didn’t say that categorically. He categorically said he never advocated that position… and neither do we; we have not seen any stand to that effect.”
Sindac told Lacierda that he did not make “any stand or opinion on that issue,” but “only presented the options that were submitted for study to them and their possible effects.”
PMA alumni proposal
But Sindac told an earlier news briefing that the proposal made by the PMA Alumni Association had prompted the PNP Directorate for Human Resource and Doctrine Development to create a technical working group to study the reentry of PMA graduates into the PNP.
Lacierda clarified that neither the Palace nor the PNP leadership had made a stand on the proposal.
“The PNP, so far, has no stand on the return of the military or the PMA graduates into the PNP because, if you notice, in the general provision of the Constitution, there will be one police (unit), Philippine National Police, (with) civilian in character. That’s what the Constitution says,” Lacierda said.
He emphasized that the idea was not being talked about within the policy circle of the Cabinet.
“There was no categorical statement from the PNP and we have not seen that option. The only time we saw that was in the newspaper, in Inquirer (Tuesday). That’s why I had to ask the person who allegedly made that statement and he categorically said he never advocated that position,” said Lacierda.
Civilian in character
The demilitarization of the police force is a legacy of the first Aquino presidency in response to abuses and other human rights violations committed by the Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police during martial law.
In 1991, then President Corazon Aquino signed Republic Act No. 6975 creating the PNP that is distinct from the Armed Forces of the Philippines since the newly minted police organization will be national in scope but civilian in character.
The law was fully implemented the following year, with the PMA Tanglaw-Diwa Class of 1992 becoming the last batch of military graduates entering the PNP.
But the last PMA graduate to bow out of police service will not happen until 2026, when this batch reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56.
The PNP Academy was established to train future police officers for “public safety”—ensuring local peace and order, and doing law enforcement work.
The PNP Academy is tasked with undertaking preparatory education and professional training for the three uniformed bureaus of the Department of the Interior and Local Government: the PNP, Bureau of Fire Protection, and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
RA 6975 made the academy into a premier institution for the training, human resource development and continuing education of all police, fire and jail personnel.
Internal, external threats
PNPA graduates are trained to be “public safety” officers, working closely with communities, while PMA graduates are entrusted with the heavy burden of defending flag and country against internal and external threats.
The PNP Academy has produced thus far at least four (one-star) generals belonging to Class of 1983 in a police organization that is still dominated by PMA alumni.
Entering the police force seems palatable to the PMA because
PNPA cadets become inspectors (lieutenant) upon completion of a four-year Bachelor of Science in Public Safety degree.
One rank ahead
The new inspectors are one rank ahead of their PMA counterparts, who become second lieutenants upon graduation and are expected to join the fighting against insurgents and secessionist rebels.
While there has been a notable decline in the number of applicants for PMA cadetship over the years, the PNPA has attracted as many as 30,000 applicants per year.
Only 300 police applicants will eventually qualify, but this number is expected to go down further to 200 as the “mortality rate” reaches 100 for the duration of the four-year course.
Several PNP officers claim that this could have been one of the reasons PMA graduates have been pushing for the reentry of military-trained officers into the police force.
In the past, the PMA was able to recruit the best and the brightest high school senior students because of the prospect of joining either the military or police service before the enactment of RA 6975.
There are 95 star-rank officers in the PNP. Of these officials, 10 are PNPA alumni, one is a military reservist and two entered the PNP via lateral entry (technical services). The rest—82 chief superintendents and directors (equivalent to generals in the military)—are PMA graduates.
Only one PNPA graduate has reached two-star rank in the PNP, Police Director Danilo Abarsoza, who retired last December.
The PNPA, however, has the upper hand in the lower ranks: only 390 are PMA graduates compared with 3,890 from the PNPA.