By Charles Dantes, Joel E. Zurbano, Macon Ramos-Araneta and Maricel V. Cruz
Police Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. on Monday assumed the top post at the Philippine National Police (PNP), which has been rocked recently by allegations that officers had been kept a portion of seized drugs to sell.
In appointing Acorda, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. urged the new PNP chief to “serve the people with integrity, with accountability and genuine justice.”
“Always be open to public scrutiny, and practice restraint and maximum tolerance in the face of harsh criticism,” said the President, who led the change of command ceremony and retirement honors for the outgoing PNP chief, Rodolfo Azurin Jr. at police headquarters in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
“Protect the people, especially the weak, the vulnerable, and those who indirectly work with us in the same cause, such as journalists, civic action groups, civil volunteers, and the like,” Marcos said.
As he took command of the 228,000-strong PNP, Acorda said he would put a premium on moral ascendancy in the promotion and placement of officers in key positions also vowed that he would lead by example for all members of the PNP to always do what is right (see related story on A1 – Editors).
“As we give a premium to the morale and welfare of our men and women in the organization, assignment and positioning will be based on merit, ability, and moral ascendancy. Under my leadership, we will be your partner in ensuring a secure, peaceful, and crime-free community,” Acorda said in his speech as he expressed gratitude to the President for his trust and confidence in him.
Acorda also expressed his gratitude to Azurin for his aggressive campaign on internal cleansing.
“I will continue what you started in cleansing the PNP,” he said.
Acorda vowed that his tenure as the police chief will be transparent and that he and his subordinates will do “the right thing.”
“To the media, our long-time partners, we welcome critics as our independent source of check and balance. We are allies in bringing out the truth. We need your support to inform the public of our endeavors for peace and order. We will be transparent,” Acorda said.
Acorda, whose family hails from Ilocos, is the second to lead the national police force under the administration of President Marcos Jr. He is the 29th PNP chief.
Before his appointment as PNP chief, Acorda served as chief of the Directorate for Intelligence starting in August 2022. In this capacity, he supervised operations that neutralized high-ranking communist rebels nationwide.
Acorda served as the former chief of staff of the PNP Civil Security Group and was also one of the officials who pioneered the creation of the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group.
Acorda is also a member of the United Nations Blue Helmets, having been deployed twice as a member of the Philippine contingent in the United Nations Police Peacekeeping operations in Haiti where he occupied a directorial position.
He also served as Palawan Police Provincial Office chief from 2014 to 2016 and as the Regional Director of the Police Regional Office 10 in Northern Mindanao.
He is a member of the “Sambisig” Class of 1991 of the Philippine Military Academy.
Azurin, who retired on his 56th birthday, had served in various capacities in the PNP for 38 years.
In his remarks, the President called for a strong and formidable PNP to meet flagrant assaults against persons and property.
“In the face of all these, we must ensure all the more that our law enforcement agencies—especially our police force—remain… strong and formidable,” Mr. Marcos said.
“They must be effective in their intelligence and investigations, operations, in the enforcement of accountability and of course, the rule of law, without fear or favor,” the President said.
Mr. Marcos said he expects the new PNP chief to lead by good example and guide the organization to the desired path towards rebuilding and strengthening, continuous improvement and capacity- building.
The President directed the new PNP chief to enhance operational ties with other law enforcement agencies, both on the local and national levels and to take an integrated, coordinated, and systematic approach in addressing peace and order and internal security issues.
“Make your presence felt in the streets, make them safer. Defend our democratic institutions, our cherished ideals,” Mr. Marcos said.
President Marcos assured the entire PNP of the administration’s full support for the organization and its plans and programs that seek to boost the morale of its personnel, hone their skills, and advance their capabilities.
At the same time, the President urged the PNP to always strive to win the trust, respect, and admiration of the people through an efficient, ethical, and compassionate brand of police work.
In his speech, President Marcos also thanked the outgoing PNP chief for his leadership.
The President also recognized Azurin’s efforts in forging partnerships with religious organizations.
During his tenure, the PNP made substantial accomplishments in peace and order, most notably in the campaigns against terrorism, carnapping, loose firearms, child abuse, gambling, smuggling, and other illegal operations, the President said.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. welcomed Acorda’s appointment.
“I believe Acorda is the right person to lead the PNP because of his vast experience and integrity to fulfill the challenge of being a Chief PNP,” Abalos said in a statement.
“In this new phase of the PNP under the leadership of Acorda, the DILG will continue to support the implementation of timely changes in the police as it diligently fulfills its mandate to safeguard and protect our citizens,” said Abalos.
“I also look forward to the support, cooperation and solidarity of the entire PNP force in the new leadership so that he can properly fulfill his role and mandate as the head of the police force,” he added.
In January, Abalos called for the courtesy resignation of full colonels and generals as part of the government’s efforts to cleanse the PNP ranks and get rid of “bad eggs.”
Abalos made the call amid reports of the return of so-called “ninja cops” who made money through “resale of confiscated illegal drugs.”
The five-man panel tasked to evaluate the resigned police officials already completed its work and is set to submit the report to Abalos and to the President.
Earlier this month, at least 42 members of the PNP Drug Enforcement Agency were disarmed and ordered to be restricted to quarters over the alleged lapses in the operation that led to the confiscation of 990 kilos of shabu in Manila last year.
Acorda vowed a relentless campaign against criminality and illegal drugs.
He also warned erring members of the PNP involved in illegal activities.
“My stand on anti-illegal drugs is clear, no police should be involved in pushing, using or whatever means of illegal drug trade. You will be charged and removed from the service,” Acorda said.
“This is my warning to each and every one of you, our fight will be holistic in prevention and aggressive in operations. Under my leadership, rewards and punishment will be quick and decisive, it shall be fair and impartial and due process shall be observed. We will establish unity, promote patriotism, uplift morale, strengthen cooperation and instill discipline in our organization,” he added.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri welcomed Acorda’s appointment as PNP chief.
“All of us in Northern Mindanao have immense trust in PNP Chief Acorda, as we have seen his able leadership here as PNP regional director of Police Regional Office 10,” Zubiri said.
Last year, under his tenure as PNP RD, he noted that Northern Mindanao saw a 9.40 percent decrease in crime rate from January to June.
“Our streets and communities have been safer and more peaceful, and our trust in our law enforcement agencies much higher,” Zubiri said.
Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa said the President made the right and best choice.
“General Acorda’s exposure is in the field of intelligence, particularly counter-intelligence, which is badly needed in the internal cleansing program of the PNP,” related Dela Rosa, the national police chief under President Rodrigo Duterte.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Monday also welcomed Acorda’s appointment.
Barbers, who chairs the House committee on dangerous drugs, congratulated Acorda for accepting “the very difficult task” of PNP chief.