Former army chief Faustino named Joint Task Force Mindanao commander

Lieutenant General Jose Faustino Jr, former chief of the Philippine Army, was appointed as the first-ever commander of the new Joint Task Force (JTF) Mindanao on Friday, June 4. 

His term as the 6th commanding general of the army was cut short in May 18, after Senator Panfilo Lacson, flagged Faustino’s appointment as unconstitutional. 

Lacson argued that Faustino’s appointment was illegal under the law that required major service chiefs and other senior officers – except for the military chief of staff – to have at least one year in active service as a condition for their promotion. Faustino fell short of the one-year active service requirement because he started as army chief in February and would reach his mandatory retirement by November 2021.

Originally, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Cirilito Sobejana said Faustino would be appointed as the Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff on Peace and Development.

New task force

On Friday, the AFP also announced the activation of the JTF Mindanao, which unified the two military commands in the southern Philippines: the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) and the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

According to Sobejana, the creation of the task force will streamline the military operations in Mindanao. 

“The creation of JTF-Mindanao aims to unify the efforts of the two Unified Commands, the Eastern Mindanao Command and Western Mindanao Command, to widen its reach in addressing common peace and security problems, most especially in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and its peripheries,” Sobejana said in a statement. 

The JTF Mindanao would also assist the local government units (LGUs) in the normalization of former rebels in the region. Normalization was the process where former rebels would be provided jobs, livelihood to help them participate in society. 

The task force was also created at the height of new threats of terrorism in Mindanao. Just last month, on May 8, over 100 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters linked to the Islamic State occupied the Datu Paglas market in Maguindanao. 

Sarapida Pacasum Jr, former leader of Lanao del Sur provincial capitol rescue team, said that the delay in rehabilitation, as well as the government’s unfulfilled promises caused unrest among Maranaos. This anger could breed terrorism, the former official said. – Rappler.com