MANILA, Philippines – After staring at a vacant seat for 3 months, Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa is finally getting the position he wants as chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
On Friday, January 17, President Rodrigo Duterte announced during a speech at the thanksgiving gathering for the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Davao City, that Gamboa was his choice for PNP chief. He becomes the 23rd PNP chief.
Gamboa bested two other 3-star generals: operations man Lieutenant General Camilo Cascolan, and popular former Metro Manila police chief Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar.
The wait has been tough for Gamboa, who entered at a time of chaos: the PNP was on its knees after its former chief Oscar Albayalde resigned over accusations of involvement in the drug trade.
With a headless organization and Gamboa standing as the deputy chief for administration – the PNP’s second-highest position – Gamboa’s rise to the officer-in-charge position was procedural. He was at the top of the stack ready to patch up a hole.
But in the 3 months that he was a stand-in, he made decisions with the force of a 4-star general. The first item on his checklist was to initiate the largest reshuffling in the PNP’s history under President Rodrigo Duterte, which consisted of uprooting at least 20 generals and two colonels from their positions.
He said the movements were necessary for the PNP to restore its fractured reputation after being humiliated over the “ninja cops” controversy. (READ: ‘Spectacle of a grand cover-up’: Senate hearing bares how ‘ninja cops’ remain in service)
Not all were pleased, and they expressed their resistance in the PNP’s closed-door command conference. Instead of holding back, Gamboa pushed the envelope further. He placed all of the PNP’s officials under probationary status for 3 months.
From then on, Gamboa headed the PNP into securing large events such as All Saints’ Day in November, Christmas and New Year in December, the SEA Games between November and December, and the Feast of the Black Nazarene and the eruption of Taal Volcano in early January.
Throughout the months, he did not complain about holding an uncertain position. When reporters raised the issue of the President’s choice for the next top cop, he simply begged off, knowing that he was among the top 3 candidates for the highest post.
How has he risen from the ranks? Rappler tracks his service record from his cadetship up to his impending promotion to the 4-star general of the PNP.
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 Duterte – also the current president’s 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
Among the top 3 candidates, Gamboa waited the longest in line to be the top cop.
In March 2017, Gamboa became the chief of the directorial staff, the PNP’s fourth-highest position. He got the third-highest post, the deputy chief for operations, in September 2018; and got the 2nd highest post, the deputy chief for administration, on October 12, 2019.
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 yet another trusted Duterte aide – the former police chief and now senator, Ronald dela Rosa.
Gamboa does not deny that he aspired 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.
But Gamboa’s appointment was not served by Duterte on a silver platter. The President’s rage prefaced the President’s generosity.
”I’m going to place you as the regular PNP [chief]. But, you and I, and Sec Año, will have a long, long talk first,” Duterte said when he announced Gamboa’s imminent formal appointment on January 17.
Between Gamboa’s assumption as OIC and the announcement of his rise to the 4-star post, Duterte repeatedly lambasted the police for their inadequacies and alleged crimes.
In late December, Duterte ordered Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to “lead” and “fix” the PNP.
Weeks later in January 2020, Duterte said Año should take over procurement after hearing about a questionable quotation for a speed gun system supposedly worth P950,000, when he had purchased speed guns for apparently as low as P10,000 back when he was the mayor of Davao City.
Set to retire on September 2, 2020, Gamboa’s appointment comes at a time when the PNP has seen a deluge of controversy and currently faces a distrustful president.
Will Gamboa’s appointment usher in better times for the police establishment? – Rappler.com