Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Jose Faustino Jr. on Wednesday, October 27, assured that the 220,000-strong AFP will remain neutral in the coming 2022 elections, and will not take orders meant to give undue advantage to any candidate.
“The AFP now is a very professional organization. We have learned our lessons from the past. Rest assured that the AFP will remain apolitical,” Faustino said.
Faustino, known for his Davao ties, is the 11th AFP chief of staff appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte in six years.
He is set to retire next month. It is not known yet who will replace him.
Faustino said he has issued a directive for soldiers to remain apolitical in next year’s elections.
“It is in our mandate to remain neutral in the coming elections. We assure the public,” he said.
The order to stay neutral has already been relayed by the Army commanders of the 901st and 401st infantry brigades to ensure peaceful and normal elections in the province of Surigao del Sur.
Brigadier General George Banzon, commander of the 901st Infantry Brigade, said they were concerned with the intense political rivalries between Surigao del Sur Governor Alexander Pimentel, and 1st District Representative Prospero Pichay.
Pichay’s wife Carla, the mayor of the town of Cantilan, is challenging the reelection bid of Pimentel.
“Both camps are locked up in a tug-of-war in getting support from local mayors and barangay executives,” Banzon said.
Brigadier General Allan Hambala of the 401st Infantry Brigade said he directed his soldiers not to be “friendly” with both the Pimentel and Pichay camps.
“I told them that we should stay neutral,” Hambala said.
Faustino was in Camp Evangelista for his farewell visit to the 4th Infantry Division before he retires next month.
He led the decommissioning of some 208 firearms that included 35 AK47 rifles, 66 caliber .45 pistols, nine m14 rifles, and 17 Garand rifles.
The firearms were seized by the military from communist rebels during operations in this year. -Rappler.com
Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship