Department of National Defense

New defense chief Galvez asks senior officials to ‘stay in place’

Sofia Tomacruz
New defense chief Galvez asks senior officials to ‘stay in place’

NEW DEFENSE SECRETARY. File photo of retired General Carlito Galvez Jr. at the 2023 budget hearing of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, at the Senate on September 28, 2022.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

(2nd UPDATE) Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. expresses confidence in his predecessor's team and says he has 'no intention' of bringing in new officials for now

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ new defense chief Carlito Galvez Jr. requested senior members of the Department of National Defense (DND) to “stay in place” as he takes the helm of the agency rocked by a sudden leadership change.

In a statement released Wednesday, January 11, DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said Galvez gave the directive during a briefing on Tuesday, January 10, at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. The meeting tackled how the agency would transition between Galvez and his predecessor, former defense officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr.

“Secretary of National Defense-designate Carlito G. Galvez Jr. enjoined all members of the DND’s Executive Committee and heads of the DND bureaus to stay in place,” Andolong said.

Galvez returned the resignation letters that the undersecretaries and assistant secretaries submitted to him, according to one defense official who was in the briefing where Galvez also encouraged them to “continue” with their work.

In the briefing, Galvez was given a “formal report” on Faustino’s 10-point agenda as well a “way forward” for the department. He also met with senior officials and heads of DND bureaus, as well as members of the DND executive committee.

Galvez, said Andolong, told senior defense officials that he would “sustain the gains of the past Secretaries and will also further enhance the capability of our national defense.”

“He also emphasized the importance of employee morale in the DND and professionalism in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in maintaining the trust and confidence of the Filipino people,” Andolong said.

Just the day before, the DND disclosed that “around seven to nine” individuals holding the rank of undersecretary or assistant secretary planned to submit their courtesy resignations to Galvez, after Faustino had quit as the country’s top defense official last January 6.

Andolong said this was “customary” since the senior officials were coterminous with Faustino and that Galvez would decide whether or not to accept their resignations.

Asked if senior officials would stay beyond the agency’s transition, DND Undersecretary Angelito de Leon told reporters in a press briefing on Wednesday, “We all agreed to stay, the senior leaders – the undersecretaries and assistant secretaries.” 

Strong team

In a press conference on Thursday, January 12, Galvez clarified this further, telling reporters that he had “no intention” of bringing in new officials. 

“I want to maintain the complete team because I know that General Faustino was doing good things,” Galvez said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

He added: “The DND has a strong DND-AFP team. I saw the members of our executive committee and they were number one in their classes, those who really performed and excelled, and have been in the defense department for a long time.” 

New personnel would be considered only to fill in vacancies, Galvez said. “The DND, they are very strong. So all our policies pertaining to territorial defense, internal security, and also international engagements will continue.” 

Private meeting

Prior to his transition briefing, Galvez had a private meeting with Faustino, who shared his recommendations and briefed him on the DND.

Galvez is scheduled to attend a “New Year’s Call” between the DND and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday, which will be followed by an AFP Command Conference. Newly installed AFP chief General Andres Centino and Galvez were expected to preside of the conference.

Faustino’s sudden departure as acting defense chief was the latest in a series of shake-ups that has rocked the security sector.

Earlier on Tuesday, Faustino broke his silence on the matter, saying he resigned after only learning through media reports that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. reappointed Centino as military chief. Malacañang refuted Faustino, saying he “knew of developments” regarding Centino’s appointment.

The strange move saw Centino return to a post he was removed from just five months ago in August 2022. It also cut short Lieutenant General Bartolome Vicente Bacarro’s stint, which was expected to last until 2025 owing to a recently signed law that mandated three-year fixed terms for key AFP officials. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.