Duterte names new heads of DOJ, PNP, AFP
President Duterte on Thursday accepted the resignation of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, appointed Director Oscar Albayalde as the new chief of the Philippine National Police, and named Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez as the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Mr. Duterte announced Aguirre’s departure from the Cabinet in a speech during the awarding of outstanding farmers, fishermen and coastal communities in Malacañang.
He gave no reason for letting go of Aguirre, but it came at a time of widespread media speculation he would be sacked over his performance.
Mr. Duterte appointed Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra as the new justice secretary.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Mr. Duterte signed Guevarra’s appointment and swore him into office on Thursday.
Roque said that since Congress was on recess, Guevarra’s appointment was a “valid ad interim” (temporary) appointment. This makes Guevarra a full-fledged secretary, he said.
“What the President declared to Guevarra was that the Department of Justice is one of the most sensitive departments because justice is at stake,” Roque told reporters.
Roque earlier said there were no indications Mr. Duterte would fire Aguirre, who attended a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Rumors about Aguirre’s departure from the Cabinet went into overdrive in recent weeks after the Department of Justice, due to insufficient evidence, dropped charges against several drug kingpins who had admitted their involvement in the illegal drug trade.
The dismissal of the complaint sparked widespread public outrage, forcing Aguirre to have the charges brought by the police investigated by a new panel of prosecutors, although he blamed it all on the “outrage of the ignorant.”
Mr. Duterte was one of those angered by the dismissal of the complaint.
He has vowed to jail or kill what he calls “drug lords” as part of his war on drugs in which small-time peddlers and users have borne the brunt of a crackdown on narcotics, with police killing thousands of people.
Aguirre was also dragged into a controversy over an attempt to bribe two officials of the Bureau of Immigration, which comes under his remit, and a proposal to make businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, a state witness.
Roque said Guevarra had proven his competence, knowledge of the law, and integrity.
Guevarra, a lawyer, served as deputy executive secretary for legal affairs in the Office of the President during the Aquino administration.
He was a member of the Philippine Competition Commission before he joined the Office of the Executive Secretary.
Mr. Duterte said he consulted people from his hometown, Davao City, on whom to appoint as new PNP chief.
‘The stricter, the better’
He said he mentioned two names that drew favorable reactions. But when he mentioned Albayalde, he said the people he was consulting balked, saying the chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) was “too strict.”
“Then Albayalde is the man for you,” he said he told them. “[T]he stricter, the better.”
Albayalde will replace PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who was supposed to have retired on Jan. 21 but had been extended in office twice.
Dela Rosa is expected to be transferred to the Bureau of Corrections after leaving the PNP.
As NCRPO chief, Albayalde had been in charge of security during the Philippines’ hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila last year.
Among the world leaders who attended the summit were US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Thank you to the President. I have nothing to say except thanks. I will continue to serve the Filipino people,” Albayalde told reporters.
Albayalde will head the PNP until his retirement on Nov. 8, 2019.
He will take his oath on April 18, the same day that Galvez will be sworn in as chief of staff of the AFP, Roque said.
Galvez is the chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom). He was in charge of military operations in Marawi when the city fell to Islamic militants last year.
He will replace Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, who will retire on April 18 after a six-month extension in office.
Galvez is a 1985 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy. He will retire on Dec. 12, when he reaches the mandatory military retirement age of 56.
“I’m happy,” he told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
Asked how his experience in the government’s peacemaking efforts would contribute to his role as chief of the military, Galvez said he believed being a “peacemaker would be an advantage.”
He also said recent military achievements such as the liberation of Marawi from terrorists and the recent surrender of Nhurhassan Jamiri, the Abu Sayyaf group subleader in Basilan, which were attributed to Westmincom, were probably among the reasons why President Duterte chose him as the new AFP chief of staff. —WITH REPORTS FROM NIKKO DIZON, MATTHEW REYSIO-CRUZ
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