MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte revealed his top choices to lead the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), led by a combat veteran who was twice spurned for key leadership posts under the Aquino administration.
Speaking to media in Davao City on Sunday, May 15, he said that for the AFP, he was considering Lt. General Ricardo Visaya for the position of AFP chief of staff.
A 1983 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy and native of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte, Visaya is currently the commander of the AFP’s Southern Luzon command. He was shortlisted for the positions of Army chief and AFP chief, respectively, under the Aquino administration, but did not make it.
Visaya earned his stripes as a commander in Central Luzon at the height of the Arroyo administration's offensive against communist guerrillas in the region and when Hermogenes Esperon Jr was chief of staff. (READ: Hacienda Luisita commander is contender for AFP chief)
Visaya is retiring in December 2016. And Esperon himself is reported to play a key role in the Duterte cabinet.
Three former Davao City police chiefs are the top candidates for PNP chief. These are Chief Superintendent Ronald dela Rosa, brigade commander of the Reactionary Standby Support Force (RSSF) who was relieved from his post after declaring his support for Duterte on Facebook, Chief Superintendent Ramon Apolinario, Mimaropa police officer-in-charge, and Sr. Supt. Rene Aspera, chief of staff of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group.
Dela Rosa is the one most closely associated with Duterte. A 1986 graduate of the PMA and native of Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur, he is considered junior for the position, but the classes ahead of him, in particular Class 1984, are identified with erstwhile presidential candidate Manuel "Mar" Roxas II. (Roxas is an "adopted" member of PMA Class 1984.)
Duterte spoke highly of the 3 policemen based on their performance as Davao City police chiefs.
“I cannot say anything against their tenure here. It was all good,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The 3, he said, would have to “discuss amongst themselves” who would get the post as he said all of them are fit for the job.
Visaya, for his part, told Rappler that nothing is final yet. Duterte met with Visaya and the 3 police officers in Davao City Sunday.
The acting AFP chief of staff, Lt Gen Glorioso Miranda, is holding that position temporarily since the President was banned from assigning a permanent chief of staff in April 2016, an election period, when Hernando Irriberi retired as military chief.
The incumbent PNP chief, meanwhile, Ricardo Marquez, is retiring 3 months from now, in August 2016.
Duterte is also said to be choosing between former defense chief Gilbert Teodoro Jr and Esperon for the defense secretary portfolio. Teodoro arrived in Davao early Monday to meet with the president-elect. (READ: Gilbert Teodoro arrives in Davao to meet with Duterte)
Dela Rosa was relieved of his post a week before the May 9 elections due to reports of him openly supporting the presidential bid of Duterte.
In a Facebook post before his relief, Dela Rosa said, “I am the Brigade Commander of the PNP-RSSF composed of 8,000 battalions close to 5,000 personnel based in Camp Crame. Kayong mga mandaraya at manliligalig ngayong May 9 elections, humanda na kayo! We will crush you! Kung sa bisaya pa, 'Ligsan Ta Mo!'" (“I am the Brigade Commander of the PNP-RSSF composed of 8,000 battalions close to 5,000 personnel based in Camp Crame. Those who will cheat and will manipulate this May 9 elections, be warned! We will crush you!).
He also tagged known supporters of Duterte in the post.
The country’s first Minadanaoan president has said peace and order would be a major focus of his presidency. His entire platform of suppressing crime within 3 to 6 months hinges on his plan to deploy both military and police to crack down on criminals, especially drug lords, arrest them or kill them if they put up a violent resistance.
His decades as Davao City mayor saw him creating a joint military and police task force to tackle crime, terrorism, and insurgency. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.