APART from the Chief,PNP, they are easily among the Philippine National Police officials who literally sleep late at night and wake up very early in the morning to answer queries from the Philippine and international media ranging from bright and intelligent questions to the most absurd, speculative and nonsense things, all in the interest of reform and transparency and good police-community relationship.
I’m referring to spokesmen of the PNP who all have made good in their career past and present. On Friday night, I and my good friend Jimmy Cheng, one of the founders of the PNP Press Corps and publisher of the Binondo-based United Daily Press met some of these fine officers and gentlemen, and most importantly good family men led by former PNP Officer-in-Charge, the much respected Gen. Leonardo ‘Dindo’ Espina.
Over a simple dinner and some wine, Gen. Espina regaled us, meaning Jimmy and I and former PNP spokesmen, newly-retired Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor and Chief Supt. Bart Tobias and the present PNP spokesperson and head of PNP Public Information Office, newly-promoted Chief Supt. Benigno ‘Bong’ Durana’ Jr. with his humorous stories, our laughter surely being heard down the corridor.
A member of Philippine Military Academy ‘Dimalupig’ Class of 1981, Espina is a veteran police operations and intelligence officer who became the PNP spokesperson after a stint as Pampanga police director. He would later become the director of the PNP Highway Patrol Group and later the National Capital Region Police Office before joining the Command Group of his mistah, former PNP chief, Gen. Alan Purisima.
As they always say, the rest is history. Espina became a well-loved Metro Manila police chief who earned his 3rd-star as PNP Chief Directorial Staff and made the country cry when he, as PNP-OIC spoke before Congress during the hearing of the infamous Mamasapano Massacre in January 2015 which left our Gallant SAF 44 dead.
Marked as the 19th head, actually ‘OIC’ of the PNP, Espina is one of the three PNP spokespersons who have made it to the top of the police force. The 1st being my ‘Ninong,’ Gen. Art Lomibao of PMA Class 1972 and the 2nd, my good friend, Gen. Nick Bartolome of PMA Class 1980. Thus, the PNP-PIO has already the honor, the proud feat of producing three Chiefs, PNP already.
PNP spokesmen really made or make good in their military and police career, giving the PNP-PIO the distinction of being a rich source of outstanding police officers, most notably a breeding ground of future PNP chiefs unlike in the past when being a spokesman was considered a lowly position in the defunct PC-INP and later the PNP where he is serving as the mouthpiece of the organization.
What separates these police spokesmen from the rest is their ability to understand and communicate with the media-whether in good or bad times. Mostly graduates of the toughest military schooling here and abroad, these intelligence and operations officers were plucked out from their previous assignment to speak in behalf of the PNP, a thankless job where they literally have to rise from their bed as early as 4 in the morning to answer radio interviews and go to bed past midnight just to attend late-night television talk shows. There is really no money in the PNP-PIO but they didn’t care and diligently did their job.
Apart from Generals Lomibao, Bartolome and Espina, other past PNP spokesperson who have excelled in their own distinct way include Gen. Cris Maralit, the last spokesman of the defunct Constabulary-Integrated National Police who became the first spokesman of the PNP when it was established in 1991. He became a Cordillera police director and head of the PNP-HPG and later the Directorate for Police-Community Relations before retiring;
Gen. George Poblete who went on to become a 2-star police general before retiring from the service; the late Gen. Rey Wycoco who became the PNP Deputy Chief for Administration and later director of the National Bureau of Investigation; my ‘Ninong’ Gen. George Alino of PMA Class 1972 who went on to become a director of the QCPD, the Maritime Group and the Police Regional Office 6;
Gen. Virtus Gil of PMA Class 1971 who rose to become the PNP’s no. 2 official; Gen. Ike Galang of PMA Class 1972 who retired after commanding three police regional commands; another’Ninong,’ the brilliant tactician in the person of Gen. Vic Batac, also of PMA Class 1971 who went on to become the PNP Director for Logistics;.
Gen. Pol Bataoil of PMA Class 1976 who became a director of the NCRPO, the PRO1 and the Directorate for Police-Community Relations before becoming a Pangasinan Congressional Representative; Gen. Sammy Pagdilao, a lawyer from PMA Class 1979 who commanded the PRO6 in Western Visayas and the PRO4-A in Calabarzon region before becoming the CIDG director, Gen. Jun Cruz of PMA Class 1982, a veteran intelligence and operations officer who became a Wester Visayas police director;
then young Chief Inspector, now Chief Supt. Noli Romana of PMA Class 1986 who used to be the Caraga director; and Gen. Rodrigo ‘Rambo’ de Gracia, a lawyer-classmate at PMA Class 1982 of Gen. Cruz who became a Cagayan police director and is now a chief of staff of Sen. JV Ejercito. Add to the list the name of Artie Sindac, now a retired Autononous Region in Muslim Mindanao police director from PMA ‘Maharlika’ Class of 1984 and Tobias and Mayor.
Tobias and Mayor are both lawyers-members of PMA ‘Sandiwa’ Classof 1985. Tobias is now the Deputy Director of the PNP Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Visayas while Mayor, who officially retired from the police force last Monday used to be a Mimaropa police director. A few weeks ago, my family and I hosted a dinner for Mayor and his two U.S.-based daughters. We were joined by another friend, retired Chief Supt. Vert Chavez, also of PMA Class 1985.
Durana, a former SAF warrior like PNP chief, Gen. Odie Albayalde, is one of the three members of PMA ‘Maringal’ Class of 1988 who has headed the PNP-PIO consecutively, the 1st being Chief Supt. Dionards Carlos and the 2nd, Chief Supt. John Bulalacao. After his stint with the PNP-PIO, Carlos became the PNP Aviation Security Group director and is now the PRO8 director in Eastern Visayas while Bulalacao is now the PRO6 director in Western Visayas.
It means that with two years left before retirement, the future looks good for Durana, an officer who has shone both here and abroad due to his diplomat-like knowledge and skills, a gentleman who has promised the press he would be only speaking from the heart, a PNP spokesman whose office is being adorned by a big picture of, not the President, not the PNP chief, but by Jesus Christ. It was really a night to remember. Thank God it’s Friday.