In November, Rodrigo Duterte will have the chance to appoint new commanders for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police — a rare occasion when leaders of the uniformed services bow out of service in the same month.

Whoever will be appointed AFP chief of staff and PNP director general are hopefully the last chiefs before the president steps down in June 2022.

Duterte would have appointed 11 chiefs of staff in his six years, second to former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who had 13 in nine years.

Former president Joseph Estrada, whose term was cut off by “EDSA Dos,” appointed only two commanders and one of them, Angelo Reyes, turned against him.

Former president Benigno Aquino III only had seven in his term and both his mother, Corazon Aquino and former president Fidel Ramos had four each.

In the PNP, Duterte will have the most number of chiefs with seven until he hands over power, the same number of PNP chiefs as Arroyo.

Aquino had six, Estrada four, Ramos five and Cory one, because the PNP was created in 1991. Cory named two commanders of the defunct Philippine Constabulary and Integrated National Police (PC-INP) — Renato de Villa and Ramon Montano.

Under Duterte’s rule, there is one requirement that stands out to be named chief of the military or the police — the officer must have served in Davao City when Duterte was mayor.

Duterte rarely appoints an official, whether in the civilian or in the uniformed services, whom he does not know personally. He values personal relations and loyalty as criteria for those given key and sensitive jobs or positions.

There are speculations Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol, who heads the Davao City-based Eastern Mindanao Command, will succeed Gen. Jose Faustino on Nov. 12, when the latter hangs up his uniform upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 years old.

The other possible successor is Lt. Gen. Andres Centino, the commanding general of the Philippine Army who replaced Faustino.

Faustino was removed in May or just months after his February appointment. Senators said it was a violation of a law banning the appointment and promotion of an officer with less than a year to retire.

In July, Faustino was promoted after Gen. Cirilo Sobejana retired as head of the 150,000-strong military. There is no ban for the position of chief of staff.

Almerol would likely be the fifth commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command to rise to the top after Generals Ray Leonardo Guerrero, Benjamin Madrigal, Felimon Santos Jr., and Faustino.

In the PNP, Maj. Gen. Vicente Danao is the likely successor of Gen. Guillermo Eleazar who will retire one day after Faustino sheds his uniform. He will also reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 years old. Danao is the commander of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO).

Maj. Gen. Albert Ferro, who heads the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 1989, is the most senior police officer when Eleazar retires on Nov. 13.

But Danao, who is a member of PMA class of 1991, is the president’s personal favorite. He served as Duterte’s chief of police in Davao City from October 2013 until a few days before Duterte’s inauguration on June 30, 2016.

Past presidents respect seniority in the police and military but it is not the first time Duterte will pick somebody who is much lower in the police linear list to become head of the organization.

He named Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa in July 2016 as his first PNP chief, bypassing his upperclassmen in the PMA. Dela Rosa belonged to PMA Class 1986 yet he replaced President Aquino’s last PNP chief, Ricardo Marquez, a member of PMA 1982.

Danao actually replaced Bato, who served as Davao City police chief for almost two years when Sara Duterte-Carpio was mayor in 2013.

Duterte won as a minority president in 2016 with only 39 percent of the votes cast, but he was able to consolidate power as local officials and congressmen flocked to his party after the elections because he gained control of the funding for the provinces, cities, municipalities and districts.

He also courted the loyalty of the military and police by raising their pay and allowances, showering them with non-cash benefits like housing, free education, and civilian positions after retirement.

His appointments to the highest positions in both the AFP and PNP were seen as rewards to loyal officers who had served in Davao City.

Some retired soldiers who had served in Davao were rewarded with senior executive positions in civilian agencies, including in civilian law enforcement organizations, like the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

Patronage, the so-called “bata-bata” system under the Marcos regime, has returned with impunity under Duterte as he put the military and police in his tight grip.

Arroyo introduced the “revolving-door” policy in military and police appointments but Duterte brought it several notches higher by ignoring seniority and service reputation to name loyal generals.

Duterte has also “militarized” the PNP by throwing away the civilian ranks and reverting to military ranks for commissioned officers and the enlisted personnel.

When the PNP was created from the old PC-INP, it discarded the military ranks to give it a civilian character. It sought to erase its dark past as the dictator’s tool in terrorizing political enemies and suspected dissidents.

But Duterte restored not only the ranks but also its old ways as a tool to silence dissent, as thousands of people died in his brutal and bloody war on drugs.

Duterte did not seek to eradicate the drug problem. He used it as a tool to make people cower in fear and consolidate his political power. A climate of fear descended on the Philippines in the last five years.

Duterte could not have succeeded in instilling fear without a loyal commander in the police and the military.

In a way, Duterte has brought the country back to the dark years under dictator Ferdinand Marcos who had absolute control of the uniformed services.

Like what Duterte is doing now, Marcos also appointed military and police officers to key civilian positions. The only difference was Marcos’ officers were in active duty service.

Marcos was in total control that he was able to impose martial law in September 1972. The PC-INP swiftly rounded up Marcos opponents and threw them in jail. Dissidents and suspected rebels were killed, tortured, jailed and involuntarily disappeared.

Marcos declared military rule to avoid the 1973 presidential elections. He was no longer eligible for reelection but wanted to remain in power, perhaps forever.

Duterte is an ardent student of history. He studied two former presidents — Marcos and Arroyo — and learned how to manipulate things through control of the uniformed services.

There will be elections next year and it would be unimaginable for Duterte to simply fade away from politics after announcing his retirement.

Of course, he still wants to remain relevant, perhaps pulling strings from behind, but his daughter refused to run for president and left him with no choice but to negotiate a graceful exit plan with some candidates, including the son of the late dictator.

Some people close to the president said he did not trust Marcos Jr. and allowed some of his trusted men to work behind another candidate, Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso.

But there are no guarantees both Bongbong and Isko will win in the May 2022 elections.

Faced with an avalanche of lawsuits, including an inquiry from the International Criminal Court, Duterte needs an insurance policy to protect him from prosecution.

Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, the wise old man of Philippine politics, had posted a warning on social media a few weeks ago. It was ignored by many but it might actually happen if Duterte is pushed to the wall.

Enrile, the martial law administrator who turned hero in 1986 but was disgraced by trying to oust Cory Aquino, regained his honor by leading the Senate during the impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona. He lost it again after he was linked to corruption cases.

Enrile never recovered, losing in his attempt to regain his Senate seat in 2019. He placed 22nd with more than five million votes and retired quietly.

Looking at the current political situation, Enrile warned that there could be no elections next year. Some political circles are talking about a “revolutionary government” in place before the balloting, he said.

These are just mere speculations but there could be no fire without smoke. Duterte remains a powerful leader. He controls not only the legislature and the courts but also the military and the police.

Duterte’s appointment of the next PNP and AFP chiefs will be crucial in this uncertain political period. They could be fiercely loyal but hopefully, they stay professional and apolitical in the end to avert a political storm during the hot summer months of 2022.