President Benigno Aquino 3rd has interviewed the two most senior officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who are being eyed to replace resigned Director General Alan Purisima, according to Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd.
In an interview, Roxas said the President had met with PNP officer-in-charge and Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina and Deputy General Marcelo Garbo Jr., chief of the PNP directorial staff.
He said Aquino asked for the records of the two police officials.
“Siguro sa tamang panahon ay magpapasya siya [The President will decide in due time],” Roxas said on Wednesday.
Espina and Garbo are Purisima’s classmates at the Philippine Military Academy, Class of 1981. They were also part of his Command Group prior to his resignation.
Purisima’s resignation came more than a week after “Oplan Exdus,” a bloody police operation that killed wanted terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and left 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troops dead.
He has been criticized for playing a key role in the operation–sitting in briefings and giving the President updates—while serving a six-month preventive suspension over a graft case being investigated by the Ombudsman.
New SAF chief
Also on Wednesday, Chief Supt. Moro Virgilio Lazo took over as the new SAF head. Lazo replaced Police Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, who was named SAF officer-in-charge after Director Getulio Napeñas was sacked from his post in connection with the Mamasapano operation.
Napeñas was suspended as SAF chief days after the operation in Maguindanao on January 25.
The covert mission also led to the resignation of Purisima, who took charge of the mission despite his suspension by the Sandiganbayan for graft.
Lazo, who took over his new post in simple ceremonies, called on SAF commandos to be “vanguards of peace.”
The new SAF head is a member of Philippine Military Academy, Maharlika Class of 1984. He was a SAF member from 1984 to 1989 and from 2010 to 2013.
In his speech, Lazo rallied SAF troops to be united.
“Together, let us continue to affirm our commitment to be vanguards of peace. May the force be with us all,” he said.
Lazo added that he was “grateful, honored and humbled” to head the elite group.
“[The SAF] has always been close to my heart. To my brothers and sisters in the SAF family, I am so elated to be back home, excited to work again with you,” he said.
The new SAF chief also thanked President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who witnessed the turnover of command ceremony.
In Camp Crame circles, Lazo is seen as a low-profile officer and a very effective manager.
”I’m grateful and honored to lead the PNP-SAF that is always close to my heart,” he said in his short speech.
Before the simple turnover ceremony, the President had met for over three hours with SAF commandos who survived the bloody encounter with combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
WITH ANTHONY VARGAS AND PNA