Espina: I offered to resign in December 2014

MANILA, Philippines – Faced with the task of heading a 150,000-strong police force and with only a few months left before his mandatory retirement, Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina said that as early as December 2014, he offered to step down as officer-in-charge (OIC).

Rappler sources had earlier spoken of Espina’s December 2014 intention to resign as OIC to give way to younger officers who can serve the Philippine National Police (PNP) longer.

In a chance interview with reporters on the sidelines of a House of Representatives hearing, Espina confirmed that in December 2014, just before Christmas, he told Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II of his plans to slide down because “he only had 7 months to go.”

But the offer wasn’t taken up or discussed since the PNP has to prepare for Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines mid-January 2015.

A few weeks after the Pope’s visit, a bigger issue hit the police force: “Oplan Exodus,” a police operation that claimed the lives of 67, including 44 elite cops.

It was Espina who led the PNP through its biggest crisis yet, the highly-secretive “Oplan Exodus” that saw the police hierarchy, the military, and other government officials in the dark. Espina himself was not told of the operation. (READ: Leonardo Espina: Leading a PNP in 'crisis')

In contrast, suspended and eventually-resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima was kept in the loop.

Second resignation

Espina again offered to resign, this time to President Benigno Aquino III himself, in March 2015.

“It was a courtesy resignation subject to the approval of the President so that for courtesy [he will] have a free hand in the selection of a new chief PNP,” he said.

The police general, currently the Deputy Chief for Administation, has been the PNP’s OIC since December 2014 after the preventive suspension of its former chief Purisima. Purisima has since resigned as PNP chief following “Oplan Exodus.”

Espina did not go into the details of his resignation, noting that it was “just between him and [the President].” He also asked reporters to “honor the privacy of [his] intention.”

Aquino earlier confirmed Espina’s offer to resign but said his acceptance would have to wait until he picks a new PNP chief. The police force has been without an acting or full-time chief for nearly 5 months.

Espina is set to retire on July 19, 2015, when he turns 56, the mandatory age for retirement in the police force. Asked if he was willing to extend his tour of duty in the PNP, Espina quipped: “I’m sure of my retirement. I don’t know about you.”

Had his offer been accepted, the role of OIC would have been passed on to the PNP’s next-in-power, Police Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr.

Espina was considered one of the top contenders for the position of full-time PNP chief but his coming retirement may get in the way.

Other contenders include Garbo, Criminal Investigation and Board of Inquiry chief Police Director Benjamin Magalong, Directorate for Operations chief Police Director Ricardo Marquez, Directorate for Logistics chief Police Director Juanito Vaño Jr, and former CALABARZON chief Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta, who is serving a preventive suspension order from the Ombudsman.

Aquino had earlier "begged" for the public's patience in the appointment of a new PNP chief, saying that he was not supposed to find a new one until late 2015.

Purisima, a close friend of the President's, is scheduled to retire in November 2015. –