Philippine National Police

[Rappler’s Best] All that drama at Camp Crame

Glenda M. Gloria

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[Rappler’s Best] All that drama at Camp Crame

Nico Villarete/Rappler

'It turned out Lieutenant General Emmanuel Peralta – and the Philippine National Police – was in for a big surprise; he was only officer in charge for barely 24 hours'

Happy Easter to you! I hope you had days of quiet during the Holy Week, which we all deserve in a world of too much chatter and too much strife. Despite problems, Christian churches nationwide prayed for Easter hope.

In Rappler, one unit did not get much rest the past few days. Our spirited faith cluster not only churned out stories on the Philippines’ Lenten activities but also chatted with our readers on the Rappler app. Readers spent the past week vigorously sharing stories, photos, experiences, prayers, ideas, and emojis in the faith channel on the app – giving life and color to our Holy Week traditions. If faith and spirituality is a topic close to your heart, go to the Community tab of the Rappler app, look for the “faith” channel and join the vibrant conversations there. Still don’t have the app and therefore missing a lot? Please download it on iOS or Android.

I surmise that it’s also been a week without rest for a few police generals who anxiously waited for a call from Malacañang that would signal that, yes, he’s the chosen one to replace Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Benjamin Acorda, whose extended term ended on March 31. After all, the President seemed to have already made up his mind on two things last week: to no longer extend the extended Acorda and to name his replacement. 

On March 26, Malacañang sent an advisory to key officials and agencies about a March 27 turnover ceremony for the new PNP chief. This meant that Acorda was indeed going to turn over his post to somebody else – belying persistent speculation he’d get extended yet again. It also meant that the replacement was already known by March 26, for how could a ceremony be planned without a name to put on the President’s appointment order?

Well, something happened in the holiest of days in this Catholic country. On Easter Sunday, Malacañang decided to instead name an OIC – officer in charge – to take the helm at the PNP: Lieutenant General Emmanuel Peralta. Now why would the President still choose to name an OIC when he had three months – the extended term of Acorda – to choose a replacement? If Peralta can be OIC, why can’t he just be…the chief? 

It turned out Peralta – and the PNP – was in for a big surprise; he was only OIC for barely 24 hours. On Monday, April 1, at the retirement ceremony for Acorda, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appointed the PNP’s comptroller, Francisco Marbil, as the new PNP chief. 

What accounts for this unnerving presidential flip-flop on a critical institution?

  • President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. continues to walk on eggshells when dealing with the PNP, which for six years, bowed to all the whims and wishes and kill lists of former president Rodrigo Duterte. The President doesn’t know or trust the institution enough even as he is already entering his third year in office. Ironically, this is akin to Cory Aquino’s troubled relationship with the military after she became president in 1986, because it was a military that was still packed with loyalists of the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. 
  • Advised that he should purge Camp Crame of Duterte loyalists and top echelon scalawags, Marcos deployed Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos to begin the process. In January 2023, Abalos issued an order asking all colonels and generals to submit their courtesy resignations. It was meant as a “shortcut” move to weed out those with drug links, he said. 
  • Of the more than 900 generals and colonels in the PNP, at least 10 did not heed the order. Some of them were retiring, anyway, Abalos said at the time.
  • It took six months for Marcos to act on the submissions. At his second State of the Nation Address in July last year, he announced that he had accepted the resignation of three generals and 15 colonels over their alleged drug links. 
  • By then, Acorda was already the PNP chief, and he exerted effort to rebuild the police’s tattered reputation especially among civil society groups. Marcos seemed pleased, prompting him to extend Acorda’s term in December, when he was supposed to retire.
  • The move to have Acorda extended this time again was connected, among others, to the ongoing probe of Duterte, Senator Bato dela Rosa, among others, by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Marcos needed someone he trusted to implement whatever decision he makes if and when the process moves forward. But as our reporters wrote in this piece, the ICC case exposes both Duterte’s desperation and Marcos’ indecisiveness
  • A second extension for Acorda would have been politically untenable for an institution that is not exactly enamored of their president. However, Marcos’ apparent choice, another Ilocano, is still considered junior in the hierarchy; naming him would give this general a long three-year term, bypass his seniors angling for the top post, and needlessly create grumbling among the top guns. 

And thus this happened at Camp Crame: an OIC on Sunday and then permanent PNP chief on Monday. Rappler reporter Jairo Bolledo noted that in December last year, a social media post about Marbil as the replacement of Acorda did the rounds, which the PNP branded as fake. Like Acorda, Marbil is a member of Class 1991 of the Philippine Military Academy; Speaker Martin Romualdez is their honorary member.

Why would a choice like this be made in such a haphazard, almost clandestine fashion? Rappler’s Thought Leader John Nery provides some context to this “chaos” in this piece, The Marcoses’ three-body problem. –

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1 comment

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  1. ET

    General Emmanuel Peralta is the pitiful victim of President Marcos Jr.’s slow decision-making and sudden flip-flopping. After being OIC for a day, General Peralta was replaced by General Francisco Marbil. Although the former has a higher rank than the latter, the latter is connected to Speaker Martin Romualdez, the honorary member of the latter’s PMA Class 1991. The choice is “indeed haphazard, almost clandestine fashion,” following John Nery’s “The Marcoses’ three-body problem.”

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Glenda M. Gloria

Glenda Gloria co-founded Rappler in July 2011 and is currently its executive editor.