MANILA (Mabuhay) – The head of the police task force for the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines in January has been named the new chief of the Philippine National Police Tuesday.
Dir. Ricardo Marquez, director for operations since December 2013, assumes the position as Deputy Dir. Gen. Leonardo Espina is set to retire July 16.
At a press conference where he made the announcement, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas expressed confidence in the leadership of Marquez.
“Tiwala ako na ang pipiliin ng Pangulo ay may proven track record. Matibay ang kumpyansa ko kay Director Ric Marquez,” he said.
“Naniniwala akong ipagpapatuloy niya ang pagbabago at kaayusan sa PNP and he will take it to further heights,” he added.
Marquez, for his part, expressed his gratitude to President Benigno Aquino III for choosing him.
“With humility and full gratitude, I accept the challenge to lead the 160,000-strong PNP,” he said.
During the Papal visit last January, Marquez led the 20,000-strong police deployment for the pontiff’s five-day stay. No major security concerns were raised during the events, with joint security and intelligence forces in place.
It wasn’t until after the event that relieved Special Action Forces (SAF) commander Dir. Getulio Napeñas confirmed having received “unverified” information that the Jemaah Islamiyah, in coordination with Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, was planning to bomb the papal convoy in Manila on January 18, when Pope Francis was scheduled to hold the concluding Mass at the Quirino Grandstand.
Malacañang, however, downplayed the supposed bomb plot.
The PNP came under fire, however, after some policemen deployed for the visit claimed that they did not receive in full the P2,400 food allowance promised per officer.
Marquez said the funds for the Papal operations did not pass through his hands, adding that they were directly supervised for the said event by the Office of the President, an Inquirer report said last week.
Marquez, a member of the Philippine Military Academy class of 1982, served as director of the Police Regional Office 1, where he was on acting capacity from January to April 2013, then appointed to full capacity until December the same year.
Among other positions he previously held were executive officer of the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (2011) and deputy task force commander of the police’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force.
During the 2010 national elections, he was police provincial director in Nueva Ecija, which had been identified as an election hotspot.
Marquez, who hails from Maragondon, Cavite, is set to retire on August 28, 2016.
Late last week, President Aquino named then-Army commanding general Hernando Iriberri as the 46th chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The announcement for the new PNP chief has been much awaited, after the suspension and eventual resignation of former chief Dir. Gen. Alan Purisima from the top PNP post.
Purisima holds the four-star rank—the highest in the PNP—despite stepping down last Feb. 6 amid the controversy over the Mamasapano operation, planning and execution of which happened while he was under suspension in connection with a graft case.
He has been criticized for playing an active role in the ill-fated operation, which left a total of 66 people dead, including 44 elite police officers.
After serving his six-month suspension in June, he went on a month-long leave until July. He was ordered dismissed from service by the Office of the Ombudsman on June 30 for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and grave abuse of authority in entering into an anomalous contract with courier service Werfast Documentary Agency in 2011.
Espina, who served on acting capacity since Purisima’s suspension in December, had offered to resign in April. President Aquino earlier said that considering Espina for the position on full capacity will be “disruptive to the service” with only three months left then before his retirement in July.
In mid-June, Aquino started interviewing possible choices for PNP chief. (MNS)