"Primarily, what does 'honest' mean, anyway?"
It has been 11 days since the retirement of PGeneral Oscar Albayalde and President Duterte has not yet made up his mind on whom to appoint as PNP chief.
Ordinarily, there should have been already a turnover ceremony. There are reports though that the President is finding it difficult to find an honest cop to replace Albayalde. We do not know exactly what “honest cop” means as far as the President is concerned. If he is looking for a cop without sin, then I am afraid he will never find one. But if he is looking for one whose service record is relatively free of involvement in controversial or serious cases, then there should be many around from whom he can choose a PNP chief.
Based from his own admission, he was blindsided about the controversial Pampanga anti-drug raid in 2013. This admission could be interpreted to mean that had he known about it, he might not have appointed Albayalde as PNP chief in the first place. This is the most likely reason he is taking his own sweet time to appoint a replacement. He does not want to get burned again. From what I have been informed, the selection of General Albayalde was largely due to the recommendation of Senator Bato dela Rosa. Before Albayalde’s appointment, there was an announcement that PLt General Ramon Apolinario, an officer who served in Davao City and who is known personally by the President was going to take over the reins of the PNP. It seems, however, that the lobby of PMA class of 1986 and that of Senator Dela Rosa was stronger and Apolinario eventually lost out to Albayalde. This is one of the few instances wherein the President appointed a Chief PNP whom he did not know.
In all my years in the uniformed service, the appointment of the Chief, PNP has always been largely a political decision. This means that the officer appointed may not necessarily be the best there is because other considerations come into play in the selection process. Political reliability, loyalty or friendship with the President—like former PNP Chief Alan Purisima and President Noynoy Aquino—could take precedence in the selection process. Purisima and Noynoy Aquino were shooting buddies.
It could also be that an officer spends an inordinate amount of time in making himself look good in front of the appointing authority instead of doing his official duties. In fact, an officer was appointed just doing exactly that.
This is not to say, however, that no Chief PNP was ever appointed solely based on his proven qualifications and track record. There were such cases. It simply means that the selection process is complicated and that not reaching the top does not mean failure. No matter what position an officer eventually reaches, the PNP is rich with work and experiences that could be as satisfying to an officer who simply wants to serve his or her country as a professional law enforcer.
If the President is indeed taking his time to pick a new PNP Chief, it could mean that there is a possibility that the three recommended top contenders for the post may not be appointed. It could be that we will see another one-star officer being appointed to the post like what happened to Senator Dela Rosa.
This deep selection process is of course perfectly legal but will disrupt many careers especially if the one selected belongs to a much younger class like 1989. If this happens, the PMA class where the Chief PNP is chosen becomes the ruling class. What will happen next is that those officers who belong to earlier classes will then be side lined to no-performing assignments which is a shame because a lot of these officers are capable and well-trained. A lot of talent will be wasted. Some senior officers will of course survive the reshuffle and hold on to some command and staff positions, but most of them will be side lined. That in essence is what the term ruling class means.
Let us hope, however, that this will not happen and that the President will eventually pick someone from the class of 1986 and 87 so that the selection will not be so disruptive. This, considering that by 2023, there will be no longer any PMA graduate left in the PNP.
There is of course another way and that is for the President to broaden the field of search to include non-PMA graduates and officers who were commissioned into the regular force in the dying years of the Philippine Constabulary, if there are still any of them left in the police service. Surely, there must be some of these officers who can fit into what the President is looking for to be the new PNP Chief. And since the bulk of the PNP officer corps are now composed of graduates from the PNPA, they could start running the show earlier than 2023 when all PMA graduates are gone.
If this happens, this would be a seismic change in the police organization. This depends entirely on the President, although I for one do not see this happening at all. Because the President is somewhat a creature of habit, it is most likely that if he is not comfortable with the three recommended officers, he might go deeper in the selection process and appoint a one-star officer whom he knows personally or just leave the current arrangement as is until all PMA 1986 people have retired and then appoint a new chief.