Aquino will choose next PNP chief ‘at right time’ – Roxas

Bea Cupin
Aquino will choose next PNP chief ‘at right time’ – Roxas
The President interviews two of the PNP’s most senior officials – PNP OIC Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina and Chief of Directorial Staff Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr. – for the post of top cop

MANILA, Philippines – A month since suspended Director General Alan Purisima resigned from his post as chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), President Benigno Aquino III is at least one step close to picking its next head.  

On Wednesday, March 4, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said that the President had met with the PNP’s highest-ranking officials, the lonely twosome of the Command Group. 

Noong Lunes, ini-interview ng Pangulo si PNP OIC Leonardo Espina at Chief Directorial Staff Marcelo Garbo. Binigay nila ang kanilang mga record at siguro sa tamang panahon ay magpapasiya na siya,” Roxas told reporters during the installation of the new PNP Special Action Force (SAF) director in Camp Bagong Diwa. 

Espina and Garbo are Purisima’s mistahs (classmates) from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1981. They were also part of his Command Group prior to his resignation.  

Purisima’s resignation came more than a week after “Oplan Exodus,” a bloody police operation that killed wanted terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir (alias “Marwan”) but also claimed the lives of 65 individuals, including 44 SAF troopers. 

The 4-star general has been criticized for playing a key role prior to and during the operation – sitting in briefings and giving the President updates. Purisima is serving a preventive 6-month suspension over a graft case being investigated by the Ombudsman. 

It is the worst crisis to hit the Aquino administration and the bloodiest days in the PNP’s young history. 

2-way race?      

But according to Rappler sources, the race to PNP chief is not between Espina and Garbo but between Garbo and a more junior officer, Directorate for Comptrollership head Police Director Juanito Vaño, Jr. 

Vaño is known to many officials in Camp Crame as a close associate of Purisima. His status as a contender for the top post hints at Purisima’s continued closeness to and influence over the President. (READ: What’s keeping Aquino from naming new PNP chief?)

Garbo, meanwhile, is associated with Roxas, chairman of the National Police Commission and presumed Liberal Party bet for the 2016 elections. 

Vaño, a PMA Class of 1983 graduate, was seen at the SAF turnover ceremonies in Camp Bagong Diwa. Also present during the ceremonies were SAF officials and mistahs of the new acting SAF commander, Chief Superintendent Moro Lazo, a graduate of PMA Class of 1984. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.