Marcos Jr. administration

Back in government: Who is Eduardo Año, Marcos’ new national security adviser?

Sofia Tomacruz
Back in government: Who is Eduardo Año, Marcos’ new national security adviser?

BACK TO THE CABINET. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. swears in Eduardo Año as his national security adviser on January 14, 2023.

Presidential Communications Office

Retired general Eduardo Año's post as national security adviser is the latest in a decades-long career that has taken him from the battlefield to the halls of Malacañang

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ next national security adviser (NSA) is a veteran combatant with deep experience in the intelligence field. He has spent years managing a civilian bureaucracy and responding to crisis at the frontlines of the country’s battle against COVID-19.

From the Aquino administration to the Duterte government, and now, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s presidency, retired general and former interior secretary Eduardo Año is back in government – this time as one of its chief security officials.

Año, 61, assumed the role after Marcos’ first NSA, Clarita Carlos, found the position to be “political.”

Explaining his decision to appoint Año, Marcos cited the retired military officer’s “long, long, long experience in intelligence.” Marcos also said, “He’s well-known and he knows all of the operatives in the intelligence community.”

Año’s incoming stint is the latest in a decades-long career that has taken him from the battlefield to the halls of Malacañang.

‘Rebel hunter’

In the military, Año excelled the most in intelligence work, serving as chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and commander of the Army’s Intelligence Security Group (ISG).

Known to many as a “rebel hunter,” Año scored high-profile arrests of communist leaders, including Benito Tiamzon, the once elusive leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Tiamzon, who was captured in 2014, had been released from detention in 2016 to be part of past peace talks held between the Duterte government and communists.

Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma, later went back underground in 2017 after peace talks ended in September 2022. Tiamzon’s sister sought help from the Commission on Human Rights to verify if the couple was among rebels killed in an encounter with the military in Samar.

As commander of the 10th Infantry Division based in Davao, Año was also credited for the neutralization of New People’s Army commander Leonardo Pitao alias Kumander Parago, who was killed in a military encounter in June 2015.

The military earlier cited these incidents as being among those that significantly weakened the communist movement.

Aside from these, it was also Año who led the hunt for retired Major General Jovito Palparan, who was convicted by a local court in 2018 for kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges. Palparan was linked to the 2006 disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.

As he rose through the military hierarchy, controversy did not elude Año. While he was in the ISG, the retired general was allegedly involved in the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, son of the late press freedom icon Jose Burgos.

For this, Año’s promotions were repeatedly blocked by Edita Burgos, Jonas’ mother, who continues to search for her missing son years later. Año has denied any involvement in Burgos’ disappearance and was later cleared by local courts.

As part of his training, Año took up the International Officer Intelligence Course at the US military training school, Fort Huachuca, in Arizona in 1993. He scored a perfect 100% rating.

He is also a graduate of the elite Scout Ranger Course.  

AFP, army chief

Año’s military career culminated with his stint as AFP chief from December 2016 to October 2017.

During this time, he led the military as troops fought against local terrorists in the 2017 Marawi siege. The five-month battle was the Philippine military’s longest and bloodiest operation since World War II.

TACTICAL OPERATIONS BRIEFING. Then-AFP chief General Eduardo Año (center) visits Marawi City alongside other top defense officials to discuss the situation with ground commanders. Photo from AFP

Prior to this, Año served as commanding general of the Philippine Army under the late former president Benigno Aquino III from July 2015 to December 2016. Before that, he was brigade commander of the 201st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Año is part of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983.

Interior secretary

After retiring from the military in October 2017, Año was appointed by Duterte as secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). He held the title in acting capacity until November 2018, after a one-year ban against the appointment of retired military officers to civilian posts had lapsed.

At the helm of the DILG, Año was tasked with overseeing the Philippines’ local government-led response to COVID-19 as well as its implementation of community quarantine measures that aimed to curb the spread of the virus.

PANDEMIC RESPONSE. Then-DILG chief Eduardo Año gives an update to then-president Rodrigo Duterte during a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force on January 6, 2022.

Año was also in charge of commanding Duterte’s controversial war on drugs. At the time, Año said he wanted to ensure the Philippine National Police waged a campaign that “uses and follows the rule of law.”

The bloody operation saw at least 7,000 killed at the hands of police. Human rights groups, however, reported the count was much higher with at least 30,000 people dead as of 2019 due to the campaign. – 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.