Philippine National Police

Azurin leads special body tasked to review records of erring cops

Jairo Bolledo
Azurin leads special body tasked to review records of erring cops
The body will review the records of all high-ranking police officers in a bid to address the illegal drug problem hounding the PNP

MANILA, Philippines – Almost a month since Interior chief Benhur Abalos asked Philippine National Police (PNP) generals and colonels to resign in a bid to address the drug problem hounding the national police, his agency unveiled on Wednesday, February 1, the five-man committee that would review the cops’ records.

Besides reviewing the records of all high-ranking officers, the courtesy resignations of those with proven links to illegal drug trade will also be accepted by the special body.

Below are the names of the committee members and important facts about them:

Retired general

Benjamin Magalong, a retired PNP general, was among the first named members of the five-man committee named by Abalos. Widely respected by his colleagues, he is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Sandigan Class of 1982.

Magalong is currently the mayor of Baguio City, in his home region, the Cordilleras.

After completing his studies at the academy, he was deployed to his home region and joined the Special Action Force (SAF). While in SAF, he founded the SAF’s Seaborne and Sniper Unit. He also led the SAF’s operation to quell Abu Sayyaf prisoners during the Bicutan siege.

During former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s presidency, Magalong was detained for allegedly leading a SAF unit during an alleged coup attempt against Arroyo. The rebellion charge against him was later dismissed.

He also joined the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. Afterwards, Magalong returned to the PNP and was assigned to the Quezon City Police Department, where he got his first star. He later headed the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, as well as the PNP’s Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management.

Azurin leads special body tasked to review records of erring cops

Before becoming Baguio City mayor, Magalong was first known as the police general who led the probe into the Mamasapano clash, where 44 SAF members died.

Then-PNP’s Board of Inquiry (BOI) and Magalong tagged late former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in the mishandled police operation. Then-presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda hit Magalong for failing to interview Aquino, while then-justice secretary Leila de Lima also slammed the report, saying it misconstrued the PNP’s chain of command and the chief executive’s place in it.

Under the former president Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, Magalong headed the team that reviewed the PNP’s operations in the bloody drug war. Because of how he managed his city at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Magalong was also named by Duterte as the contact tracing czar.

Also from PNP

Magalong is not the only retired general in the committee. Isagani Nerez, Undersecretary for Police Affairs at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs, has also been named as part of the review body.

Nerez is a retired PNP general and a member of the PMA Maharlika Class of 1984. A lawyer, he worked in various PNP units such as Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response, SAF, Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force, and the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group, according to a Philippine News Agency report.

He once served as the Director for Integrated Police Operations for Eastern Mindanao. During his stint at the national police, he headed the team that probed the Kidapawan dispersal, where two people died, and 100 cops and protesters were injured.

Like Magalong, Nerez has ties with the North after serving as Baguio City police chief during the mid-2000s. He later became the chief of Cordillera regional police.

Arroyo’s defense chief

Gilberto Eduardo “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. served as the secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND) under Arroyo. He ran for president in the 2010 elections, but lost to his cousin, Noynoy Aquino.

Teodoro also served for three terms as representative of Tarlac’s 1st District, from 1997 to 2007.

Duterte offered the DND chief post to him twice, but he declined. In 2021, a year before the 2022 presidential election, Teodoro offered to be the running mate of now Vice President Sara Duterte.

He ran during the 2022 senatorial race and placed 15th – only three spots away from the Senate’s “magic 12.”

Current PNP chief

During Abalos’ press briefing on Wednesday, the current PNP chief, Police General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. was announced as a member of the special body.

Azurin was among the first top PNP officers who tendered their courtesy resignations shortly after Abalos made the appeal. Although Azurin had tendered his courtesy resignation, he remained the country’s top cop because his submission only takes effect if it is accepted by his superiors.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. did not accept Azurin’s resignation, according to Abalos. The interior chief added that Azurin had already been screened before he was chosen to be part of the committee.

Azurin, an Ilocano, is Marcos’ first national police chief, and the 28th PNP chief since 1991. In his first speech as PNP chief, Azurin said he will enforce his “Malasakit + Kaayusan + Kapayapaan = Kaunlaran” (Compassion + Order + Peace = Progress) mandate in overseeing the national police. He said he will also review how the bloody drug war was carried out.

Azurin leads special body tasked to review records of erring cops

The current PNP chief is a member of PMA Makatao Class of 1989. Azurin previously served as the director of Benguet provincial police, headed the Chief Task Force Limbas of the Highway Patrol Group, and was the deputy operations officer of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force.

As a one star general, Azurin headed the PNP Maritime Group, and later the Ilocos Region police. He also held key positions in Camp Crame – the PNP’s national headquarters – such as head of the Directorate for Comptrollership and of the Directorate for Information and Communication Technology Management.

Azurin will serve until his retirement on April 24, 2023, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56.

5th member: unknown

The identity of the five-man committee’s last member will remain a secret, according to Abalos. The fifth member cited “family concerns” in concealing his/her identity for now. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.