Aquino hails Espina; quit letter not accepted but . . .
TARLAC CITY, Tarlac—Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina “is a very honorable person, and he loves the institution, and he loves the service, and he loves the country.”
President Aquino on Friday spoke glowingly of Espina before confirming that the officer in charge of the Philippine National Police has indeed offered to resign but he has not yet accepted the resignation because he is still looking for a new PNP chief.
Mr. Aquino said, however, that Espina, who is retiring in July, is no longer being considered for the top post in the PNP.
“He did submit his resignation and the acceptance is pending on selecting his replacement,” Mr. Aquino told reporters here after speaking at the turnover of new school buildings at Tarlac National High School.
President Aquino explained why Espina, who retires on July 19 when he turns 56, is no longer being considered in the search for a new PNP chief.
“Is he still in the running? That’s the point. He assumes today, he has about three months to serve. Once he serves the three months, there will be a turnover to the next guy, who replaces him, and that’s disruptive to the service,” he said.
“On that basis, General Espina has decided to resign,” the President said.
Espina, Mr. Aquino said, cannot be appointed PNP chief and given the rank of director general (the equivalent of general—four stars—in the military) because that will give the PNP two directors general when the police law allows only one.
Mr. Aquino indicated that Espina resigned to avoid a complicated situation in the appointment of a new PNP chief.
Rumors that Espina resigned as PNP OIC have been swirling for days, but PNP officials denied the talk on Thursday night.
On Friday, however, Espina issued a statement confirming his resignation.
“I didn’t want to get in the way of the President free hand in appointing a new chief, thus, I earlier signified intention to be relieved as PNP officer in charge,” Espina said in his statement.
Espina has been PNP officer in charge since December, when the Ombudsman suspended the PNP chief, Director General Alan Purisima, over allegations of graft.
Purisima resigned on Feb. 6, at the height of the scandal caused by the discovery that despite his suspension, he had a role in the planning and execution of the bungled “Oplan Exodus,” a secret Special Action Force (SAF) operation to arrest three Islamic terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province.
The secrecy backfired, with 44 SAF commandos getting killed in a gun battle with Moro rebels. It was the biggest single-day combat loss for government security forces in years.
Espina was kept out of the Jan. 25 operation, but showed character when he broke down at a congressional inquiry into the clash and demanded justice for the slain SAF commandos.
Purisima resigned only as PNP chief, but not from the service. He keeps his four stars until he retires in November.
Mr. Aquino also said that the amended PNP law is silent on the requirement that a police official should have a full year left in service before he is promoted to director general.
The President indicated that a PNP chief serving only briefly would not make an impact on the 125,000-strong police organization.
“So we go back to the premise: that he will serve for such a short time, and what can he actually do in that short period of time, and the downside is, the organization will have to reacclimatize itself to two [PNP chiefs] in the same year,” he said.
The President said Malacañang was now interviewing several candidates for the post, but did not name them.
“I will beg everybody’s patience on this matter. It was not projected that we will be changing the chief, PNP at this point. We were thinking that it would be at the end of 2015 [when] we would have to change the chief, PNP,” he said, referring to Purisima’s retirement in November.
At the time of Purisima’s suspension in December, Espina was deputy chief for operations. He took over as PNP officer in charge and on April 14, he was designated deputy chief for administration, replacing Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas Jr., who retired.
After Espina, the next highest-ranking PNP official is Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr., who is the current deputy chief for operations.
Like Purisima and Espina, Garbo also served as director of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), holding the position from July to December in 2013. Garbo also served as deputy chief of the Directorate for Operations in 2010. He will retire on March 2, 2016.
Another official believed to be a contender for the post of PNP chief is Director Ricardo Marquez of the Directorate for Operations. With a report from Julie M. Aurelio
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