MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines will have a new chief of staff this week as General Ricardo Visaya reaches the retirement age of 56.
The retirement and change of command ceremony is scheduled on Wednesday, December 7.
Sources said the strongest contender is Army Lieutenant General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, current commanding general of military forces based in the home region of the President, the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).
Guerrero has ensured that the ceasefire with communist rebels is sustained under his command, despite the fact that it is where the New People’s Army (NPA) is strongest. In his younger years in the Army, Guerrero also got his brigade command in Davao Oriental. A Special Forces officer, he was assigned to the Presidential Security Group under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Another serious contender is Army chief Lieutenant General Eduardo Año, who had served in the Davao region as commanding general of the 10th Infantry Division.
A veteran intelligence officer, Año scored some of the biggest arrests of communist leaders in his career. He was chief of the Intelligence Service Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp) when alleged NPA boss Benito Tiamzon and wife Wilma were arrested in Cebu. Freed by Duterte, the Tiamzons are part of the rebel panel in the current peace talks with the government.
Año was a year ahead of Guerrero at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). Scheduled to retire in October 2017, Año is a 1983 graduate of the PMA while Guerrero belongs to PMA Class 1984.
“I recommended several names. Siguro nakapili na (He must have chosen already),” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Rappler.
BOG lists 11 names
The Board of Generals sent the names of 11 “qualified” 3-star generals in the military, said Lorenzana.
Lorenzana did not name the 11 contenders. Officers holding a 3-star position include the chiefs of the major services (army, navy, and air force) and the area commanders nationwide.
“The Board of Generals actually sent 11 names of 3-star generals who are all qualified. It’s up to the President to choose. After all, the chief of staff is a position of trust and confidence,” Lorenzana said.
Duterte said last week he will let the AFP Board of Generals pick the next AFP chief. “I leave it to the AFP board of generals, they have to go through the process,” he said.
Visaya has one of the shortest terms as AFP chief serving for a duration of a little over 5 months.
Under his leadership, the AFP was able to sustain the ceasefire with the communist New People’s Army, launch a series of attacks against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan, as well as the Maute Group in Lanao Del Sur. – Rappler.com