MANILA, Philippines - The first woman to be promoted to the rank of two-star general in the history of the Philippine National Police (PNP) opted for early retirement last Thursday.Director Lina Sarmiento, who headed the PNPâ€™s Directorate for Police Community Relation (DPCR), confirmed to The STAR that she left the police service on Jan. 31. Sarmiento is set to turn 56 on Sept. 23, the mandatory retirement age for police and military personnel. Sarmientoâ€™s rank of director is equivalent to that of major general in the military.Sarmiento, however, asked The STAR not to press her for the reason of her early retirement, which is seven months earlier than her mandatory retirement. Many officials and employees in Camp Crame, which houses the PNP headquarters, were surprised by Sarmientoâ€™s decision.Sarmiento is so far the only policewoman who received the two-star general rank in the PNP, a male-dominated organization throughout its history.The former DPCR chief said she does not know yet who will replace her in the directorate since PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima has yet to announce his choice for her replacement. The DPCR is the PNP unit in charge of police programs designed to bring the police closer to the people.The PNP had three one-star generals but all of them had reached the age of 56 and retired from the service. They were Chief Superintendents Yolanda Tanigue, who headed the Women and Children Protection Office; Angelina Vidal of the Health Service; Lorlie Arroyo and Liza Sabong of the Crime Laboratory.In 2012, the 143,000-strong PNP had some 11,000 female police personnel assigned in the Police Regional Offices and National Support Units.Before her retirement, Sarmiento has been busy in the plenary of the Independent Commission on Policing, which is contained under the Framework Agreement onthe Bangsamoro signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front onOct. 15,2012.The ICPâ€™s task is to prepare and submit recommendations to the peace panels on the appropriate form, structures, and relationships of the police force for the envisioned Bangsamoro region.Sarmiento entered the police service as a forensic chemist at the Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police (PC/INP) Crime Laboratory in September 1980. In 1991, she was assigned to other line units where she occupied various command and staff positions in the police organization.After receiving a chemistry degree at Adamson University, she admitted that her entry into the male dominated police force was merely by chance.After she graduated from Adamson, she took time to find where she would apply for work. She was encouraged by a female friend to take an exam and join the PC/INP through lateral entry.Sarmiento passed, but it took her some time to decide to pursue a career in the police service because she thought her course may not be applicable in the police force. She realized that her chosen line of work matched her childhood desire â€œfor extreme and unusual things.â€She said her previous assignments as chief of police in Apalit, Pampanga and Pandi, Bulacan and as an anti-drug police officer with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Drug Law Enforcement and Prevention Coordination Center gave her vast experience and knowledge to be an effective police officer.In her more than 34 years in the police service, Sarmiento said she had never thought of giving up her career in a male-dominated organization. â€œIn all those years, my past superiors, colleagues and staff were very supportive, they are my second family.â€Although she had never experienced actual combat operations, Sarmiento said police officers with technical expertise in forensic examination are equally important as lawmen chasing and shooting it out with criminals.