Armed Forces of the Philippines

Army chief Andres Centino is next AFP chief

Jairo Bolledo
Army chief Andres Centino is next AFP chief

NEW AFP CHIEF. Philippine Army commanding general Lieutenant General Andres Centino is the next AFP chief.

Philippine Army 4th Infantry Division

(1st UPDATE) Lieutenant General Andres Centino replaces General Jose Faustino Jr., who is also a former Army chief

President Rodrigo Duterte named Philippine Army chief Lieutenant General Andres Centino as the next chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Centino’s appointment was confirmed by Malacañang and the AFP on Friday, November 12. The newly appointed chief formally assumed command during the Change of Command Ceremony on Friday afternoon led by Undersecretary for Defense Operations Cesar Yano from the Department of National Defense.

“We are confident that General Centino will continue the initiatives of his predecessors to bring lasting peace and development in the country while securing the State and upgrading our defense capability,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a statement on Friday.

Centino replaces outgoing chief of staff, General Jose Faustino Jr., who served for only four months – from July 30 to November 12. 

Centino is the 57th AFP chief and the 11th under President Rodrigo Duterte in less than six years. This rivals the 11 AFP chiefs appointed by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her nine years as the military’s commander in chief. 

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In his first speech as AFP chief, Centino told the military to unleash its full force against communist rebels to deal the “final blow that will ultimately destroy the enemies of the state.” He then issued a warning against insurgents and terrorist groups.

“To the remaining insurgents and terrorist groups in this country: Let me emphasize that the national government is sincere and open to those who still want to return to the folds of the law. But if you insist, the full force of the AFP will hit you hard to the brink of your extinction,” Centino said.

The new AFP chief also vowed to help keep the high-stakes 2022 polls “fair, honest, peaceful, and secure.”

Without explicitly mentioning Chinese militarization of the West Philippine Sea, Centino said Philippine sovereignty must be protected and that he supported efforts to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian neighbors and other countries.

“Our actions must be in full support of the national government’s efforts to assert our sovereignty. These challenging times provide opportunities for us to build and strengthen our security and diplomatic ties with our Southeast Asian neighbors and the rest of the world. We have much to gain from engaging and collaborating with our partners,” Centino said.

The West Philippine Sea is a part of the South China Sea that belongs to Manila but which Beijing is falsely claiming as its own. A historic 2016 arbitral ruling already upheld the Philippines’ rights over the West Philippine Sea and struck down China’s expansive claim over the disputed waters. But no less than Duterte himself has been downplaying this victory in favor of loans and grants from China.

The President argued asserting the ruling would spark a war with the regional giant, but critics have said the Philippines can push to forge stronger alliances with other foreign nations to put more pressure on China to leave the West Philippine Sea.

Centino to serve until 2023

Unlike his predecessors, Centino still has two more years to serve because he will only reach the mandatory age of 56 by February 4, 2023. Duterte is known for appointing short-termed AFP chiefs who will serve in less than a year. 

Faustino served for only four months (July to November 2021), Cirilito Sobejana for six months (January to July 2021), and Gilbert Gapay for five months (August 2020 to January 2021). 

The new AFP chief was born in Tacloban City but grew up in Cebu City. He finished high school at the University of the Philippines College-Cebu High School before entering the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 1984.

After graduating from the PMA, Centino finished his master of science degree in National Resource Strategy at the National Defense University in Washington DC, USA. He took up his master’s in management at the University of the Philippines.

Centino belongs to the now ruling PMA Maringal Class of 1988. His classmates include Air Force chief Lieutenant General Allen Paredes, Navy chief Vice Admiral Adeluis Bordado, and PNP chief Lieutenant General Dionardo Carlos. – with a report from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com 

Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.