To be Army chief someday has likely been his dream, but even Major General Andres Centino would admit he didn’t think it would happen this soon.
Centino assumes command of the 100,000-strong Philippine Army on Tuesday, May 18, in rather unique circumstances. He replaces acting Army chief Lieutenant General Jose Faustino, who served for only 104 days before his term was cut short.
The defense department was forced to remove Faustino due to what Senator Panfilo Lacson had described as a violation of a law that required major service chiefs and other senior officers – except for the military chief of staff – to have at least one year in active service as a condition for their promotion. Faustino fell short, as he reaches his mandatory retirement in November 2021. The military has created a new position for him: Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff on Peace and Development.
A seasoned combatant, Centino will be the 7th Army chief since President Rodrigo Duterte was elected president in 2016. He once served as operations chief of the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or J3.
Under Duterte, three army chiefs eventually became AFP chief of staff: Eduardo Año, Gilbert Gapay, and the incumbent, General Cirilito Sobejana.
Centino graduated cum laude from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) as part of the “Maringal” Class of 1988. He is the second member of Class 1988 to command the army; he and Faustino are classmates.
Raised in Cebu
Born in Tacloban City on February 4, 1967, the 54-year-old Centino has two more years in the military before he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56.
He grew up in Cebu City, raised by a father who was a military lawyer and a mother who was a teacher. Centino finished high school at the University of the Philippines College-Cebu High School before entering the PMA in 1984.
Centino finished his Master of Science in National Resource Strategy at the National Defense University in Washington DC, USA. He took up his masters in management at the University of the Philippines.
Centino served as the AFP deputy chief of staff for operations (J3) at the general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. On May 29, 2020, he was appointed commander of the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division based in Cagayan de Oro City, which had command over soldiers in Northern Mindanao. He had previously served as chief of staff and brigade and battalion commander of the same division.
Centino is married to Sheila Sucalit Centino. They have three sons and a daughter.
Top NPA hunter in Mindanao
Unlike his predecessor, Centino has no direct “Davao connection” – in reference to generals close to President Duterte who had been assigned in Davao – but he is considered as one of the top New People’s Army hunters in Mindanao.
AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said Centino’s appointment was “right in time” for the military’s planned final blow against the communist insurgents.
“His appointment came at the time when the AFP is vigorously pursuing its initiatives and building on its gains to defeat the Communist Terrorist Group, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the BIFF,” Arevalo said in a statement.
According to Brigadier General Oliver Vesliño, OIC of the 4th ID, the army is in good hands under Centino. “With his rich experience in operations, intelligence, civil-military operations, and administration in previous positions that he held, we are confident that the entire Philippine Army is in good hands,” Vesliño told Rappler in a message.
While leading the 4th ID, Centino ordered the setting up of military bases in the mountains to disrupt the operations and the logistics of the communist rebels.
Centino also helped in improving the army’s database in Northern Mindanao. With this, the military was able to discover the burial sites of rebels, which helped them identify the slain communists in their area. – Rappler.com