Department of National Defense

Malacañang: Former DND OIC Faustino ‘knew of developments’ in AFP

Bea Cupin
Malacañang: Former DND OIC Faustino ‘knew of developments’ in AFP

AFP CHIEF AGAIN. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. swears in General Andres Centino into office as AFP chief.

Presidential Communications Office

The former defense OIC earlier said he only learned of Andres Centino’s oath taking as AFP chief from news and social media reports

MANILA, Philippines – From resignation and destabilization rumors to a word war via press release.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on Tuesday, January 10, claimed former defense officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr. “knew of the developments with regard the appointment of Gen. Andres Centino.”

“The President as the Commander-in -Chief has the sole prerogative to appoint the AFP Chief of Staff,” the Palace said in the same statement, released late Tuesday.

The statement comes hours after Faustino, himself a former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said that he only learned of a military leadership shakeup through the media.

In a statement early Tuesday, Faustino said he submitted his irrevocable resignation after “learning only from news and social media reports that an oath of office of the new Chief of Staff, AFP had taken place at Malacañang.”

Late Friday, January 6, the Palace announced that, in an unprecedented move, Marcos appointed Duterte-era AFP chief General Andres Centino to head the military again.

Five months prior, it was Marcos himself who led the turnover of the AFP leadership from Centino to Lieutenant General Bartolome Bacarro. A few months after that, Marcos appointed Centino as envoy to India, fulfilling an earlier promise to give Centino a post fit for a 4-star general.

The switch in leadership comes in the nick of time, at least for Centino, who would have retired by February 2023. But because of Republic Act No. 11709, the reinstated Centino can now serve a full term of three years, unless he is removed by Marcos.

Bacarro would have been the first AFP chief under the fixed-term law. He turned 56 in September 2022, but stayed on in service up until January 6, 2023 since he was AFP chief.

Bersamin’s statement Tuesday also emphasized Centino as the “only 4-star general in the AFP.”

By law, there can only be one 4-star general in the armed forces and it is reserved for the AFP chief. Although Centino no longer held the top post at the start of the Marcos administration, he did not retire early and therefore still kept the 4 stars on his shoulders. That is why Bacarro, throughout his brief stint as AFP chief, remained a lieutenant general with 3 stars.

Bersamin was among the handful of officials who attended the turnover of AFP leadership from Bacarro back to Centino. Faustino was absent from the ceremonies, as was Marcos himself.

Swift but unsurprising shakeup

The process of selecting a new AFP chief is one that has been long established. It is the Board of Generals that first vets nominees, then the defense chief sends a short list to the President.

Despite the apparent decision to keep Faustino out of the loop in the full process, or at least the final selection, he said the AFP is a “highly disciplined and competent organization that will survive under any given circumstance”

The shakeup in the country’s defense leadership – first Centino’s return as AFP chief, and then Faustino’s exit as defense OIC – triggered weekend rumors of destabilization and mass resignations, which both the military and police forces have denied or downplayed.

On Monday, the Palace announced that Secretary Carlito Galvez, who was Marcos’ peace adviser, would take over the defense post.

While the switch in leadership was swift, it also is not a complete surprise.

Marcos, for instance, had the option to appoint Faustino as Secretary of Defense in November 2022, or one year after his retirement from the AFP. But Marcos did not do that, saying he was “happy with the situation,” meaning keeping Faustino as a mere OIC.

The whole time, too, Centino remained a full general, depriving Bacarro of the 4-star rank despite assuming the role of full-time AFP chief albeit briefly. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.