MANILA, Philippines – It’s the question in the minds of many officers in Camp Aguinaldo. Will President Rodrigo Duterte extend the term of the new chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Lieutenant General Rey Guerrero, who will retire in less than two months? (READ: Duterte appoints general about to retire as next AFP chief)
Duterte was mum during his speech at the change of command ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday, October 26. Guerrero replaced General Eduardo Año who reached the mandatory retirement age of 56.
Guerrero himself didn’t want to discuss it. He will retire in December 2017.
“‘Yung extension huwag muna natin pag-usapan (Let’s not talk about a possible extension yet. What is important for me to do now is to focus on my job,” Guerrero told reporters.
“I’m just the appointed official so any extension of the appointed official depends upon the appointing authority,” he added.
Lorenzana supports extension
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he supports the possible extension of Guerrero’s term.
“Ano naman ang magagawa ni General Guerrero in two months? Siguro mag-extend naman nang mahaba-habang panahon para magampanan niya trabaho niya,” said Lorenzana,
(What can General Guerrero achieve in two months? I suppose his term will be extended longer so he could do his job.)
“We have martial law. That is a good reason for the President to extend the chief of staff,” said Lorenzana.
In a separate interview, Guerrero maintained he will do his job, whether or not his term is extended.
“You have to understand that the effort of the AFP is based on a multi-year program. It is not dependent on personalities anymore. Regardless of who assumes, he has tasks lined up for him to do. In my case, regardless of whether I’m extended or not, I’m mandated to finish whatever I can in the period given to me. We have timetables and targets that we should meet and I intend to meet them,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero said the high approval and trust rating of the military – in the aftermath of the Marawi war – will generate public support for the military campaigns.
Finish off terrorists
Guerrero assumes command as the Philippine military continues operations against the so-called remnants of terrorist groups in Mindanao in the aftermath of the war in Marawi, where the country’s top terror leaders were killed.
In his speech, Guerrero said he will focus on 3 objectives. “The priorities in the area of peace and security are clear: Finish the remaining terrorist groups, neutralize the communist insurgency threat, and support law enforcement agencies in efforts against lawless armed groups,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero also vowed to support the modernization of the military and hire more troops to fill up new units in the military. “I’ve been instructed to organize 10 additional battalions. This will augment existing deployments,” Guerrero later told reporters.
Guerrero is the commanding general of military forces based in the home region of the President, the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).
Guerrero was widely believed to have been Duterte’s choice to replace former AFP chief Ricardo Visaya, who retired in 2016. But seniority prevailed and Año got the appointment.
Guerrero was again rumored to take the helm of the AFP last June when Año was supposed to retire early to head the Department of the Interior and Local Government. But war erupted in Marawi City and Año remained in his post.
There have been talks Guerrero’s term would be extended beyond his scheduled retirement in December.
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. – with reports from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com
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