PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has appointed Major General Benjamin Acorda, Jr. as his police chief.

He will replace Rodolfo Azurin, Jr., who will retire at 56. Mr. Azurin’s term as national police chief was marred by allegations of a cover-up of a P6.7-billion drug bust in Manila in October.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) would be transparent and serve with dignity and professionalism under his watch, Mr. Acorda said in a speech during a change of command ceremony at the police headquarters near the capital.

“I am soliciting the support of everyone for I cannot do it alone,” he said. “I ask for your cooperation, your support and your commitment. Together, we will overcome the challenges the organization is facing.”

“We will not rest until every Filipino feels secure in their homes, in their streets, and in their places of work.”

A special police task force earlier found that 49 policemen committed lapses in connection with the Oct. 8, 2022 drug bust where 990 kilos of crystal meth worth P6.7 billion were seized from a lending firm owned by a dismissed anti-narcotics officer.

Mr. Acorda said cops involved in the illegal drug trade would be axed. “Rewards and punishment will be quick and decisive, which will be fair and impartial. Due process shall be observed.”

Mr. Acorda served as the Palawan Police Provincial Office chief from 2014 to 2016 and was a regional director for Northern Mindanao.

In a speech during the event, Mr. Marcos Jr. asked Mr. Acorda to defend state institutions and people who indirectly work with the government. “Make your presence felt in the streets, make them safer.”

“Defend our democratic institutions, our cherished ideals,” he said. “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.”

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) welcomed Mr. Acorda’s appointment, citing his “extensive experience” in law enforcement and as a blue helmet police officer at the United Nations (UN).

“With his stint with the UN, we believe he has embraced the tenets of social justice and recognizes the standard-setting mechanism of the International Labour Organization, such as on the full respect for the right to unionize,” it said in a statement. 

“He has the opportunity to put a stop to the killings of trade union leaders and rampant violation of trade union rights perpetrated by authorities,” it added.

“We believe that General Acorda’s roots from the intelligence community is an asset to PNP reform and in the anti-drug campaign,” FFW Women Network President Ma. Victoria Bellosillo said in the statement.

“His experience and expertise will help identify and shut down the major sources of illegal drugs in the country. We expect him to get the ‘big fishes’ and protect the human rights of our people, including trade union rights of workers.”

Mr. Acorda’s term as national police chief will only be for eight months, because he is due for retirement on Dec. 3.

“The FFW calls on the government to use this time wisely and work towards implementing long-term solutions to the issues faced by the PNP and the country,” FFW President Jose Sonny G. Matula said.

Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros also welcomed Mr. Acorda’s appointment,  saying he is “well-meaning and idealistic.”

“These are qualities the PNP needs, now that links to drug syndicates and illegal gambling, among other criminal elements, have been exposed,” she said in a statement.

She said the PNP is highly politicized and full of problems that stand in the way of law enforcement and justice.

“Police General Acorda’s experience as former head of intelligence will be an important asset to deeply cleanse the PNP’s ranks,” she said. “I am certain he will rise to the challenge.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza