Palace takes its time vetting Philippine National Police chief

The selection process for the next Philippine National Police chief is still in progress.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda would not say Monday when President Aquino would finally announce Director General Alan Purisima's replacement, after several names had been dropped as possible contenders.

Lacierda told reporters the decision would be based on qualification, track record and the merits of the candidate, as well as the assessment of the President.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma made the same statement last week, noting that despite the long selection process, the President was aware of the "sense of urgency" of appointing the top PNP official.

Among the contenders is Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, who was suspended by the Ombudsman over 1,004 missing high-powered firearms. The weapons were allegedly sold to the communist New People's Army.

The PNP official, along with Purisima and other officers, was also suspended for his alleged involvement in an anomalous transaction with a courier service. At the time, he was head of the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office.

But Petrasanta has the support of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., vice chair of the ruling Liberal Party, who was said to have written President Aquino endorsing the suspended Central Luzon police director for PNP chief.

Petrasanta has been called "PNP chief in waiting" due to his close ties to the President's family. He had headed the Presidential Security Group assigned to the Aquino residence on Times Street in Quezon City.

Sole discretion

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said the police force respect Belmonte's endorsement of Petrasanta, although the choice remained the President's.

"We respect the statement of the Speaker regarding Petrasanta, although the appointment or designation of the PNP chief is at the sole discretion and decision of President Aquino," the PNP spokesman said on Monday.

The most serious threat to Petrasanta's assumption to the top post is Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr., who reportedly has the backing of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

Another strong candidate is Director Benjamin Magalong of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, who is said to be backed by former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, also an ex-PNP chief.

The other candidates are Director Ricardo Marqueza of the Directorate for Operations and Director Juanito Vano of the Directorate for Logistics, who is reportedly supported by Purisima.

Personal friend

Purisima resigned in February at the height of the controversy over the bloody Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident, which left 44 troopers dead in a clash with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Before this, Purisima, also a personal friend of the Aquinos, was placed under preventive suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman for six months in connection with the allegedly anomalous gun license courier deal.

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