THE appointment of Mar Roxas as secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Governments could have made him a darling of the masses. As head of the department with supervision over the Philippine National Police, any dramatic and spectacular performance in enforcing law and order would propel his political stock upwards–just like it did to then Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay before the 1953 presidential election.
Unfortunately, Roxas didn’t, couldn’t, take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Yolanda tragedy and the Mamasapano massacre among others. He failed the tests of leadership and decisiveness that could have catapulted him to the top in the race for Malacañang.
A former DILG chief, Rafael Alunan 3rd, is also in the 2016 election but for senator.
Alunan did much better at the DILG than Roxas. He helped forge a peace agreement with the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa and the Young Officers Union in 1993, and with the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996.
Oh yes, Alunan was tourism secretary under President Cory before he was appointed to the DILG by President Fidel Ramos. He coordinated with other departments in rescuing tourists trapped in Baguio City after a temblor. Unlike Roxas, he never injected politics in helping the Baguio city government with their rehabilitation plans.
A little known fact about Alunan is that he’s authorized by the Special Action Force to wear the SAF beret. At a SAF anniversary rites, he was awarded by Ramos for his role in thwarting the 1989 coup attempt, a recognition earlier given him by the Senate and the PNP.
Had Alunan run for senator in 1992 or I995 or 1998 where his achievements were still fresh in the minds of the electorate, he would have had a much brighter chance. Out of the limelight, he has to do a lot of spadework and gain more media to improve his chances of getting elected, just like the one who succeeded him at the DILG–Robert Barbers.
The late Barbers was the second DILG secretary to become senator, the first being Nene Pimentel. However, he still holds the distinction of being the first police officer to be elected to the Senate. He was among the most trusted men of former Manila police chief Alfredo Lim and together, they hogged the headlines many times in fighting criminality.
Barbers proved that a good policeman could do as well in the Senate. I rate him a better lawmaker than Lim who’s suited more for an executive post. Lim is seeking to regain City Hall against Manila Mayor Erap Estrada.
Perhaps emboldened by the election of Barbers and Lim to the Senate, four former police officers now want to follow their footsteps. One of them is Getulio Napeñas, former SAF commander who became the administration’s sacrificial lamb in the case of the massacre of 44 commandos in Mamasapano. Napeñas may be an able and outstanding police officer but he doesn’t have the common touch so essential in the political arena.
Aside from Napenas, former police officers Ramon Montano, Romeo Maganto and Samuel Pagdilao are also running for the Senate. Montano had previously ran for Makati mayor and Maganto, for mayor of San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan. Both had shown decisive leadership and bravery in fighting crimes and coup attempts. Pagdilao is an incumbent party-list congressman.