Aquino: Bartolome to cut short PNP term

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome, who is retiring in March 2013 yet, will go on a "no-duty" status before the end of the year to pave the way for an early transition to a new PNP boss.

This was disclosed to reporters by President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday, November, in Laos, where he is attending the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting. “He might go on what is called the ‘no-duty status.’ We’ll discuss exactly when. That might be [by] the end [of] November or sometime in December,” Aquino said.

Bartolome is scheduled to retire on March 16, 2013, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56 for soldiers and policemen. The country, however, will be having its mid-term elections in May 2013.

The President stressed the importance of appointing a new police chief ahead of the polls.

“The major issue here is it is unlikely to change the guard in March, that there will be a transition," Aquino explained. "You will have a transition when it’s already heating up, even the local campaign period is starting, if I’m not mistaken, by that time,” the President said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Aquino said his decision takes into consideration Bartolome’s request to be accorded his full retirement benefits.

“No-duty status, what does that mean? If he finishes his term on March 16, he is telling me he wants complete benefits, not premature. It’s like having full retirement pay, benefits, etc. The explanation was if he retires before that, there might be a deduction and he is entitled to his pension, benefits, etc. We’re checking that out.”

Under Aquino's "no-duty" plan, Bartolome is expected to relinquish his administrative and operational duties to a new PNP chief before the year ends. But Bartolome will continue to hold on to his rank as a 4-star director general until his retirement in March. 

Deputy Director General Alan Purisima, head of the PNP directorial staff, is reportedly being groomed as the next PNP chief. He's a former aide of the late President Corazon Aquino.

Already a 3-star general, Purisima can only be promoted to 4 stars when Bartolome retires in March.

"In short, Bartolome will be 'floating' during the transition period," a police general explained to Rappler.

Aquino said that Bartolome acknowledges the need for the police chief to have enough time to prepare for the polls.

“He recognizes the fact na hindi naman pwede ‘yung timon, ‘diba ‘yung kapitan ay biglang mawawala sa panahon na talagang nandoon ka na sa medyo peligrosong pagbiyahe.” (He recognizes the fact that you cannot have a leader, the captain to be suddenly gone at a time when you are already in the middle of a dangerous voyage.)

Aquino said among a police chief’s priorities in the run-up to the elections is the campaign to suppress politicians’ private armed groups.

“We wanna ensure that we have what they call HOPE: honest, orderly, peaceful elections.”

The President added that another consideration is the election ban on appointments.

“So if he (Bartolome) stays past February, someone might question that we are replacing him during the elections. That’s an unnecessary irritant when the time comes,” Aquino said in Filipino.

No Puno replacement yet

Aquino initially wanted Bartolome to leave his post early to replace Rico Puno as Interior undersecretary.

While on a trip to Vladivostok, Russia in September, Aquino revealed that he offered the post to Bartolome.

Back then, Puno sparked controversy over a questionable PNP arms deal, and his visit to the condo unit of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo when Aquino only tasked him to secure papers in Robredo’s offices. Puno was reportedly being investigated over the gun procurement deal.

“I actually asked Director General Bartolome also to consider to resign earlier. He will be given a different position so as to afford the next director general time to get a firm hold of the forces that are in the PNP to ensure we have peaceful elections …. He might replace Usec Puno,” Aquino said then.

Puno eventually resigned in September. Aquino told Rappler in a previous interview that he asked the undersecretary to step down.

Rappler earlier reported that even before Robredo’s death, Malacañang wanted to replace Puno supposedly because of various complaints against him. Emissaries tried to persuade Bartolome to take the post.

The move, however, never materialized. While Bartolome said he serves at the pleasure of the President, he did not express any interest in becoming Interior undersecretary.

Robredo’s replacement, Mar Roxas, has submitted to Aquino a list of possible replacements for Puno.

In the Laos interview, Aquino said he has not yet seen the list.

“Unfortunately, that hasn’t come to my desk yet.” – Rappler.com