MANILA, Philippines – The Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday, January 11, moved to quell speculations of rumblings among the military after sudden changes in leadership at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and defense agency sparked rumors of alleged destabilization.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, Defense Undersecretary Angelito De Leon told reporters there was “nothing irregular” with the reappointment of General Andres Centino, whose comeback cut short the three-year tour of duty of former AFP chief Lieutenant General Batolome Vicente Bacarro.
Centino, who was former president Rodrigo Duterte’s last AFP chief, returned to the role after Malacañang announced, in an unprecedented move, that the general would head the military again. There was no explanation why Bacarro was replaced.
“There is nothing irregular if you are referring to the law,” De Leon said. “It is the prerogative of the Commander-in-Chief to designate not only the chief of staff, but the key officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the DND civilian bureaus.”
Under Republic Act 11709, Bacarro was expected to be the first AFP chief to hold the post for three years, or until 2025. The law, signed by Duterte in April 2022, was intended to end the “revolving door” policy which gave rise to military chiefs serving only a few months before retirement.
While the law mandates a fixed-term for key AFP officers, it also granted the President the authority to terminate it sooner or extend it in “times of war or other national emergency.”
Centino’s reappointment had prompted former defense officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr. to resign from his post, saying he only learned of a military leadership shakeup through the media. Following Faustino’s exit, the DND disclosed that senior defense officials planned to submit courtesy resignations.
Newly appointed defense chief Carlito Galvez though told all senior officials in a transition briefing to “stay in place.”
The DND also assured the public it was facilitating a “smooth transition” between Faustino and Galvez.
“We had a smooth transition yesterday,” said DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong. “He (Galvez) prevailed upon our executive committee members and our heads of bureaus to stay on.
He added: “The DND is intact.”
Asked about reports of dissatisfaction among troops over Bacarro’s replacement, De Leon said Galvez urged the military to “remain united.”
“The message of Secretary Galvez is the one defense team should remain united and should pursue and focus on its mandate,” De Leon said. “Wala pong kailangang loyalty check (There is no need for a loyalty check). The AFP remains steadfast to the constitution and the duly constituted authorities.”
De Leon also said that the DND and AFP’s traditional new year’s call had been well attended, with all commanders and key staff at the AFP and DND bureaus present.
“As manifested by Director Andolong, we are intact,” he said.
Galvez and Centino are expected to jointly preside over an AFP command conference on Thursday, January 12. – Rappler.com