AFP shake up complete: 2 ‘notorious’ generals assigned to NPA hotbeds

Carmela Fonbuena
AFP shake up complete: 2 ‘notorious’ generals assigned to NPA hotbeds
But they're considered exceptional if you ask the troops

MANILA, Philippines (Updated) – As far as the government’s counterinsurgency campaign is concerned, there are two important military commands: the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) in Davao region and the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) in Bicol.

Two generals considered “notorious” by rights groups – but exceptional if you ask the troops – will take over these commands early next month when the current chiefs reach the mandatory retirement age of 56. Their appointments were confirmed to Rappler by Armed Forces chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr in a text message Tuesday, August 26.

On September 5, Major General Aurelio Baladad is expected to assume his post as Eastmincom chief, and Major General Ricardo Visaya as Solcom chief on September 8.

Their appointments are to complete the major shake-up in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) this year. 

Baladad and ‘Morong 43’

Baladad, who will be replacing Lieutenant General Rainer Cruz, will be at the helm of the Eastmincom area, currently the center of gravity for the communist insurgency. It is host to about 2,000 New People’s Army (NPA) members or about half of the estimated strength of the armed wing of the Communist People’s Party (CPP), based on military estimates.

Baladad gained notoriety when he was commander of the 202nd Brigade based in Rizal, and ordered the arrest of  the “Morong 43” – a group of people tagged by the military as NPA members but who, according to human rights groups, turned out to be health workers. The military however maintains that they are communist rebels

Baladad and other soldiers involved in the arrest were accused of human rights violations before the Commission on Human Rights. But Congress eventually confirmed the promotion of Baladad. He is currently the commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division based in Capiz province. 

Visaya’s controversial stint

SOLCOM: Major General Ricardo Visaya assumes as Southern Luzon Command chief on September 8. Photo courtesy of the Philippine military

The Solcom, on the other hand, is where NPA operations used to be concentrated. Intensified military operations – which rights groups claim to be questionable – have forced many of them to flee.

The job of Visaya, who will be replacing Lieutenant General Caesar Ordoyo, is to make sure that the NPA does not reclaim the region. (Visaya will be plucked from the 4th infantry division in eastern Mindanao.)

Rights group Karapatan has likened Visaya to detained retired Major General Jovito Palparan Jr – tagged as the berdugo or “the butcher” by leftist groups – because of his alleged disregard for human rights. When Palparan was commander of the 7th infrantry division in Central Luzon, Visaya served as one of his brigade commanders.

Palparan is currently detained at the Bulacan Provincial Jail over the alleged abduction of two University of the Philippines students in 2006. They remain missing.

Military shake-up

The military’s top brass is entirely new.

The chief of staff, General Gregorio Catapang Jr, just assumed the top post in July. Vice Chief of Staff Lieutenant General John Bonafos also assumed in July, replacing Catapang who occupied the post for about 2 months.


Army chief Lieutenant General Hernando Iriberri assumed in February, Air Force chief Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado in April, and Navy chief Vice Admiral Jesus Millan in May.

There are 6 military commands in the country. Three others got new chiefs this year: Northern Luzon chief Lieutenant General Felicito Virgilio Trinidad, Central Command chief Major General Nicanor Vivar, and Western Command chief Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez.

These commands are based in Tarlac, Cebu, and Palawan, respectively. The 6th command, the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), is led by Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero. He assumed the post in November 2013.

The Philippine Military Academy also got a new chief in April – Lieutenant General Oscar Lopez. –

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