Careers up close: The 3 contenders for Duterte’s 3rd PNP chief
MANILA, Philippines – After an explosive controversy that forced out the 22nd Philippine National Police chief, the decision to choose the country's new police head now rests with President Rodrigo Duterte.
Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año has submitted 3 names to the President. He named the police’s current top 3 officials, respecting seniority in the police force:
- Lieutenant General Archie Francisco Gamboa
- Lieutenant General Camilo Cascolan
- Major General Guillermo Eleazar
All 3 of them hold a 3-star general rank and covet the one and only 4-star rank among the men and women in blue. Two of them have been identified as “Davao boys,” while one of them is considered a standout outsider.
We obtained the personal data sheet of all the 3, looking through their rich service histories that span decades, enough to establish links with the President’s closest aides and the President himself. Who’s the best among them?
Gamboa: The Davao admin man
When it comes to paperwork, Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa knows what to do.
Most of his leadership positions in his 3-decade career in the PNP have been in offices crucial to ensuring that the police force functions every day: working at logistics and comptrollership.
Both aspects of administrative work in the police concerns allotting budget and facilities for police field operations and the day-to-day paper-pushing inside offices.
“Magaling ako sa opisina (I am skilled when it comes to the office),” Gamboa said in an interview with Rappler on October 15.
The Davao connection. Gamboa took his office work further in 1998 when he went to law school at the Ateneo de Davao University. He transferred to the Camp Crame-based Jose Rizal University and passed the bar in 2004.
It was during his law school days that Bukidnon-born Gamboa turned into a “Davao cop.” From December 1997 to September 2002, he was the spokesman of the Davao Region Police Office.
In holding the spokesman post, he met and found a friend, a key confidant of then-Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte – his most trusted aide, now senator Bong Go. Through Go and the PNP, he met Duterte.
Gamboa proudly said that Duterte does not address him formally as General Gamboa, but simply as “Chie.”
When Duterte won as president in July 2016, Gamboa was the Deputy Director of the Directorate for Logistics. He was then reassigned to head the Directorate for Comptrollership – the role that got him the most exposure early on as he faced senators and congressmen during budget hearings.
The forever candidate. In March 2017, Gamboa became the Chief of the Directorial Staff, the PNP’s top 4 post. He got the top 3 post, the deputy chief for operations, in September 2018; and got the 2nd highest post, the deputy chief for administration, on October 12, 2019.
He has been the officer in charge of the PNP ever since General Oscar Albayalde resigned from being the chief of the PNP.
Gamboa is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Sinagtala Class of 1986, the same class as Albayalde and Cascolan, but one of his closest classmates is another trusted Duterte aide – the former police chief and also recently elected senator, Ronald dela Rosa.
Gamboa does not deny that he aspires to be the next PNP chief. After all, he was also part of the short list to replace Dela Rosa. When Dela Rosa was about to retire in April 2018, he was the only one among the current contenders to hold a 3-star rank as the Chief of the Directorial Staff.
“I have been a candidate for so long. By reason of my rank, I am an automatic candidate, but of course it spells out the difference, of course, I am the number two,” Gamboa said in a Camp Crame press briefing after Albayalde resigned.
Cascolan: The Davao operations man
If Gamboa’s specialty is the office, Lieutenant General Camilo Cascolan’s specialty is the field.
Most of Cascolan’s career was spent leading police stations: Barotac, Iloilo from May 1992 to August 1994; Ajuy, Iloilo from March to August 1998; Balasan, Iloilo from April 1998 to July 1998; Taguig City from October 2008 to November 2010; and, Compostela Valley province from July 2012 to April 2014.
“If there’s anything I’m proud of, it’s my service record,” Cascolan has repeatedly said in interviews.
The Davao connection. Cascolan met President Duterte when he was the chief of the Davao Region Police Office Finance Service. He then brushed shoulders with them as the provincial police chief of the Compostela Valley Police Provincial Office.
The closest post Cascolan held to Davao City was being the top 4 official of the Davao Region Police Office as its chief of the directorial staff.
He also belongs to PMA Class of 1986, and like Gamboa, he considers former top cop Dela Rosa as one of his closest friends. Dela Rosa trusted Cascolan enough with his knowledge of operations that he was appointed PNP’s Director for Operations when Duterte won in 2016.
With the post, Cascolan co-authored the bible of the popular but bloody anti-drug campaign: Oplan Double Barrel.
Baggage with the past chief. Cascolan found himself at odds with resigned police chief Albayalde.
Before Dela Rosa retired in April 2018, he asked that the ruling police officials – many of them his classmates too – get Cascolan as the Metro Manila police chief to replace then recently-appointed police chief Albayalde.
But Cascolan didn't last long. After just 6 weeks, he was fired by Albayalde, demoted to a paperwork-heavy position as the chief of the police Civil Security Group.
Albayalde apparently disliked how Cascolan reversed policies he put in place when he was the Metro Manila top cop, especially Cascolan’s order that cops spend only 8 hours on duty instead of Albayalde’s preferred 12 hours.
He has since then risen to become the police’s top 3 official as the deputy chief for operations since October 12, after being the Chief of the Directorial Staff from September 2018.
Eleazar: The dark horse under the spotlight
Everybody knows Major General Guillermo Eleazar.
He has made a name for himself as the Metro Manila police chief who collared and hit a cop who allegedly extorted from the family of a drug suspect. The entire encounter was filmed by a phalanx of television cameras. It went viral on social media.
But his career, so far, has been a fine balance of office and fieldwork, working early on in his career as a liaison officer of the United Nations to Cambodia from 1993 to 1994 and as chief of police of San Pedro Laguna from 1998 to 2000.
Later on between 2007 and 2009, he also served as egional chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit of the Central Luzon and the Central Visayas regional police offices.
Like Gamboa, Eleazar spent years – from 2009 to 2015 – in logistics and comptrollership, holding key posts like the chief of logistics resource management and chief of the fiscal division.
Noticed by Duterte. Eleazar was never assigned in Davao Region. He is also not part of the PNP-ruling PMA Class of 1986. He belongs to the PMA Hinirang Class of 1987.
But he is the only one among the candidates who has been publicly praised by Duterte for his aggressive and media-coverage-heavy policing in Metro Manila.
When Eleazar went viral for his outburst on the extortion-accused cop, Duterte approved of it, saying, “Tell him I've got his back.”
Eleazar's strategy to policing is not new. Shaming cops in front of a camera crew under the Duterte administration had previously happened with resigned police chief Oscar Albayalde when he was Metro Manila police chief.
Being strict – It was with the same strategy of policing that Albayalde ended up being appointed police chief.
Albayalde’s ‘kiss of death’? A burden that Eleazar carries as he joins the race for being Duterte’s third police chief is Albayalde’s support. With Albayalde’s ungraceful exit, it has now turned into a liability more than an asset.
Eleazar had directly worked with Albayalde during most of the Duterte administration, first as the chief of the Quezon City Police District from July 2016 to April 2018, when Albayalde was Metro Manila police chief, and then when Eleazar was Metro Manila police chief, when Albayalde rose to become PNP chief.
Before Albayalde resigned on October 14, he did last-minute reshuffling in the PNP, which involved Eleazar being promoted from Metro Manila police chief to the PNP’s Chief of the Directorial Staff. This saved Eleazar from the massive reshuffle Gamboa executed a week later, which uprooted one to two-star generals from their posts.
When asked whether his relations with Albayalde could compromise his run as police chief, Eleazar told Rappler that he only did what any policeman would do as a subordinate to a boss: “Work well and work hard.” – Rappler.com