President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Major General Andres Centino as new chief of the Philippine Army, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed to Rappler on Saturday, May 15.
“I wish to inform you, per your letter endorsement and in accordance with the recommendation of the chief of staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)…the designation of Major General Andres Centino as commanding general, Philippine Army,” Duterte told Lorenzana in a letter dated Friday, May 14.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed the designation, saying, “We are confident that MGEN Centino will continue the initiatives to professionalize and modernize the principal branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines while building the gains to serve our people and secure our land.”
Centino replaced Lieutenant General Jose Faustino Jr, who served as acting chief of the army. Faustino took over in an acting capacity last February when Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana was promoted to AFP chief.
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson questioned Faustino’s acting capacity, saying no military officer shall be appointed to key positions if they have less than one year in active service. Faustino will retire in November 2021.
Centino belongs to Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Maringal Class of 1988, same with Police Chief Directorial Staff Lieutenant General Dionardo Carlos.
Centino’s last post was commander of the army’s 4th Infantry Division (ID) known as the diamond division in Northern Mindanao, covering Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, and Dinagat Island.
As 4th ID chief, Centino was big on hunting down communist rebels, rallying localities in his jurisdiction to “destroy” the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army (CPP-NPA).
“We enjoin the members of this body through the regional, provincial, and municipal task force to end the local communist armed conflict to do their share. The CPP-NPA members, without resources, will surely be defeated and can no longer recruit new members nor conduct atrocities against our people,” Centino had said in 2020, as reported by the Philippine News Agency.
AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said Centino’s appointment “came at the time when the AFP is vigorously pursuing its initiatives and building on its gains to defeat the Communist Terrorist Group, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the BIFF.”
“And this is where his attributes are expected to contribute immensely,” said Arevalo.
Centino also previously held the position of AFP deputy chief of staff for operations.
“Given his known professionalism, operational experience, and managerial skills gained from various leadership echelons of the AFP, MGEN Centino will undoubtedly stir the Army to greater heights,” said Arevalo
Localized peace talks
In the military’s intensifying counter-insurgency campaign, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr said localized peace talks are ongoing, “orchestrated by” the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Esperon mentioned the local peace talks during a government briefing on Saturday, in response to progressive groups which said that the recent terror designations of peace consultants have entirely shut the door to the peace talks.
Esperon said peace talks may not be possible for now, but localized peace talks will continue.
“Ang peace talks tutuloy pa ba? Eh ang Pangulo naman ang lagi niyang sinasabi alang-alang sa katahimikan ng ating bansa kung kailangan ng makipag-peace talk sa kanila ay gagawin natin, pero hindi pa ngayon, hindi pa ngayon. Mayroon naman tayong localized peace engagement,” said Esperon on Saturday.
(Will we resume peace talks? Our President always says that for the sake of peace in our country, if there is a need for talks, we will do it, but not now, not now. Anyway, we have localized peace engagement.)
Esperon had taken this rhetoric to the Supreme Court where oral arguments on the anti-terror law are ongoing, but petitioners had requested the Court not to call back the security adviser for the resumption of hearing on Monday, May 17, and to strike his earlier testimony off the records.
Esperon had red-tagged progressive groups in his testimony. – with a report from Jairo Bolledo/Rappler.com