By Christina Mendez, October 17 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine National Police officials received a dressing down from President Duterte at a closed-door command conference Tuesday night, amid a controversy over the possible involvement of PNP officers and men in illegal drugs, an insider revealed yesterday.

“The President has expressed his utmost disappointment at the PNP,” the insider told The STAR when sought for details on the outcome of Duterte’s late night meeting with top police officials. “Binigay na raw niya lahat, nag-involvement pa rin sa drugs (He has given them everything and yet they still have involvement in drugs),” the source said, referring to the additional salaries and benefits given to uniformed personnel.

Contrary to what some quarters had expected to transpire during the meeting, Duterte made no announcement of his choice for the replacement of Gen. Oscar Albayalde as PNP chief.

Albayalde submitted a “letter of intent” to go on “non-duty status” early this week as he parried accusations that he was a protector of “ninja cops,” the term for policemen involved in recycling illegal drugs seized in raids. The outgoing PNP chief was supposed to retire on Nov. 8.

The source said the President gave PNP officials a dressing down during the conference, supposedly for their failure to stop the activities of the so-called ninja cops.

With the President’s choice for next PNP chief still a guessing game, sources said Manila Police District director Vicente Danao Jr. is emerging as a “dark horse” owing to his closeness to Duterte.

“Of all the aspirants, Gen. Danao has the direct line to the President. He also has his trust and confidence,” an insider told The STAR.

If chosen as the next PNP chief, sources pointed out that Danao may be able to implement reforms in the police organization more efficiently since he will have a longer term.

A member of Philippine Military Academy class of 1987, Danao will retire on Aug. 10, 2023, enough time to allow him to implement reforms beyond the President’s term that ends in 2022.

After graduating from the PMA, Danao was assigned in Duterte’s home province.

Reports said Danao became commander of one of the smallest stations in Davao City, which covers the city’s Bago district, in 1995. From 2001 to 2007, Danao remained in key posts in Davao when Duterte was mayor.

Danao rose to regional police headquarters before returning to Davao City as its police chief in October 2013.

He was also at Duterte’s side when several groups urged the latter to run in the 2016 presidential elections.

When Duterte was elected as president, Danao was assigned chief of counter-intelligence of the PNP Directorate for Intelligence at Camp Crame.

He then became deputy chief for operations of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

It was under Danao’s watch that the CIDG sent a team to the Senate to try to arrest Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV last year.

If appointed to the top PNP post, Danao would dislodge his upperclassmen at the PMA, who are also occupying top posts in the police organization.

They include newly appointed PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, who served as commander of the PNP National Security Task Force for the 2019 midterm elections; and Deputy Chief for Operations Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan.

Albayalde, Gamboa and Cascolan belong to PMA Sinagtala Class of 1986.

At the conference, sources said the President was visibly “disheartened” with developments linking ranking policemen to illegal drugs.

The Senate testimony of former police general and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong was just too much to ignore.

Sources said Duterte reminded the officers of his efforts to improve the salaries and benefits of policemen since he started his term as commander-in-chief in 2016. He also told them about his strong support for the PNP’s modernization program.

In May this year, the Department of Budget and Management announced an increase in the salaries and benefits of military and uniformed personnel retroactive to Jan. 1.

Sen. Christopher Go said the President would likely consider seniority in his choice for Albayalde’s successor.

“He is considering competence and honesty… Most likely he will follow the seniority,” Go told Senate reporters in an ambush interview at New Clark City in Tarlac, one of the venues for the Southeast Asian Games from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

Go said all star-rank police officers are considered candidates for the position of PNP chief. –Cecille Suerte Felipe