After A seven-month wait, the Philippine National Police finally got its full-time chief, a bemedalled officer who had fought drug traffickers and other hardened criminals while keeping himself physically trim, as proved by his 34-inch waistline.
President Aquino on Tuesday named Director Ricardo Marquez to the plum post, replacing Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, who had led the PNP for less than a year as officer in charge.
"I urge the members of the PNP to rally behind your leadership as I ask you now to contribute your share in strengthening this institution," said the 54-year-old native of Maragondon, Cavite province.
A two-star officer, Marquez will assume the post of PNP chief on Thursday, eventually gaining his third star before reaching the four-star rank, which is reserved for the country's top cop.
Marquez, current chief of the PNP Directorate for Operations, was told by the President of his appointment in a meeting in Malacañang on Monday with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.
Marquez's selection came after months of speculation about who would replace Director General Alan Purisima, who was suspended by the Ombudsman and who ended up resigning his post at the height of the controversy over the Mamasapano incident.
Purisima-a known ally of the President-was later dismissed from the service because of a graft and plunder complaint before the Ombudsman.
Roxas announced Marquez's appointment.
Other contenders for the post were Marquez' "mistah," the chief of the directorial staff, Deputy Director General Danilo Constantino; the deputy chief for operations, Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr.; the chief of the directorate for logistics, Director Juanito Vano; Director Benjamin Magalong of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group; and dismissed Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta.
Aquino had wanted a police officer who would see through the 2016 elections. Marquez, a member of the Philippine Military Academy's Sandigan Class of 1982, will retire on Aug. 28, 2016.
Need for reforms
"We are confident that Marquez will continue the reforms and take the PNP to higher and better heights," Roxas said.
He said Aquino first took notice of Marquez in 2014 when a Filipino passenger believed ill with the MERS virus arrived in the country, with Marquez tracing all passengers of the plane to find the ill passenger.
Marquez also oversaw the security preparations for January's visit of Pope Francis, which went off without any major criminal incident occurring.
As chief of the Directorate for Operations, he was also in charge of planning the security arrangements for this year's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meetings.
Marquez noted he was accepting the challenge to lead the PNP when the police force was still emerging from difficult situations-referring to Purisima's exit from the PNP and the Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident, in which 44 commandos died in clashes with Moro rebels.
He said his assumption of the post came with the opportunity to renew the PNP's core function of fighting criminality.
Marquez urged the public to support the PNP's anticriminality campaign and goal of building peaceful communities.
Asked if Marquez was Aquino's choice all along, Roxas said what was important was that Marquez was the President's final choice.
"The President has the authority to study the records of many police officials. In the end, he decided to appoint Marquez and you can see the PNP's whole-hearted support," he said.
Espina's sterling leadership
Roxas also said that as officer in charge, Espina "showed his excellent brand of leadership," and added: "The PNP today is stronger, more united and more focused."
The President's marching orders to Marquez dealt with security arrangements for the Apec meetings this year, topped by a meeting of heads of state in November, and continuing the anticriminality drive, particularly "Oplan Lambat Sibat," which began in Metro Manila and is now being implemented in Central Luzon and the Calabarzon region.
Roxas said that in Metro Manila, crime rates had dropped by 50 per cent since June last year. Marquez was also in charge of implementing the programme in Central Luzon, where crimes have dropped 33 per cent, and in Calabarzon which has had an 18 per cent drop.
Roxas cited Espina for his "sterling leadership" as the PNP "caretaker."
"It was under his leadership that the PNP pulled through stronger than ever," Roxas said.
Espina described his successor as a "hardworking man who has proven his mettle, capability and competence in the past years."
"He has also proven his mettle in terms of leadership in leading various units of the PNP," Espina said, adding, "The PNP is in good hands."
Marquez has held at least 32 positions in his 33 years in the PNP.
His mettle was tested in January this year when he had to secure Pope Francis during his engagements in Metro Manila and in Tacloban City.
Marquez has held various administrative, operational and intelligence positions in the PNP. He was regional director of the Ilocos police regional office and also served as provincial director of Nueva Ecija in 2000.
He was regional intelligence chief of the Calabarzon and the National Capital Region as well as the Northern Police District.
In Camp Crame, he was assigned to the anti-illegal drugs special operations task force, the directorate for intelligence and the directorate for investigation and detective management.
Marquez also underwent training on senior crisis management in the United States. He was also schooled in intelligence, human resources, anti-illegal drugs, human rights, jungle warfare and juvenile justice, among others.
Marquez boasts of 148 medals and honors, including medals for distinguished service, outstanding achievement, special service, heroism and the Bronze Cross.
Malacañang said Aquino sought out the "best and most highly qualified" when he appointed Marquez as next PNP chief. This was the sole basis for the appointment, said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma.
Marquez was a surprise choice by the President. Malacañang usually announces the President's choice for PNP chief. Veering from tradition, it was Roxas who made the announcement in Camp Crame.
As Roxas announced Marquez's appointment, rumours circulated it was Purisima who endorsed Marquez for the post. Coloma did not directly comment on the rumours.