Lacson: Philippine Army acting chief not qualified for his post

Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former police chief, said the current acting commanding general of the Philippine Army, Lieutenant General Jose Faustino, is not qualified for his position. 

During a meeting of the Committee on National Defense of the Commission on Appointments on Wednesday, March 10, Lacson questioned the appointment of Faustino as the acting army chief since he is slated to retire in November.

“Lt. Gen. Faustino is retiring in November 2021. Less than a year, correct? So he cannot be designated even in an acting capacity as commanding general of the Philippine Army,” said Lacson. 

Lacson referred to Section 4 of Republic Act No. 8186, which states that “except for the Chief of Staff of the AFP, no officer shall be assigned/designated to the aforementioned key positions or promoted to the rank of Brigadier General/Commodore or higher if he has less than one (1) year of active service remaining prior to compulsory retirement.”

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana defended Faustino and said that he was designated only in “acting capacity.”

But Lacson emphasized that even “acting capacity” is still considered a designation. 

“I agree, designated as acting, but still a designation, would you agree? And the law is very clear. Ang sabi sa batas, walang minention na full capacity or acting capacity (The law does not mention full capacity or acting capacity specifically),” Lacson added. 

The armed forces chief further reasoned that he just acted based on a memorandum signed by President Rodrigo Duterte – who, like Faustino, is a Davaoeño.

However, Lacson stressed that the law has much more weight than a memorandum released by the executive department.

“And between the memorandum issued by the Executive Secretary and the law, what should take precedence?” Lacson asked. 

“The law,” Sobejana responded. 

Because of the questions raised by Lacson, Cavite 6th District Representative Luis Ferrer IV, chair of the committee, deferred the appointment of Faustino and 13 other military officials, as well as Sobejana's confirmation to the rank of general. The committee also suspended the hearing and will resume on March 17. 

The military chief also said they will resolve the issues on Faustino in accordance with the provision of the law cited by Lacson

Faustino is a Davao-based military official known for his staunch campaign against communists – one of the top priorities of the Duterte administration. He once led the AFP’s 11th Intelligence Service Unit based in Davao City and was the chief of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command also in Davao City.

In a memorandum dated February 11, Faustino was appointed as the acting commanding chief of the army and replaced Sobejana, who was promoted as the 8th chief of staff of the military. –