Philippine president appoints new defense chief amid destabilization concerns

Camille Elemia
2023.01.09
Manila
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Philippine president appoints new defense chief amid destabilization concerns Former Philippine chief peace adviser and COVID-19 vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., named new defense secretary, is seen during an event held to receive vaccines from the U.S. government, July 27, 2022.
BenarNews

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday appointed a new defense secretary amid destabilization concerns, days after he replaced the military chief just five months into his tenure.

Marcos named Carlito Galvez, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under former president Rodrigo Duterte, the new defense secretary, without disclosing why his predecessor, Jose Faustino Jr., resigned, said a Presidential Communications Office statement.

“It is with deep regret that the president has accepted the resignation of DND OIC Sr. Usec. Jose Faustino Jr. The president has offered the position of DND Secretary to Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. and he has accepted,” the statement said.

The Department of National Defense welcomed the appointment of Galvez, who served as presidential peace adviser and vaccine czar during the COVID-19 pandemic under Marcos’ predecessor Rodrigo Duterte.

“With Sec. Galvez’s years of experience as a military commander and as a civilian public servant, we are confident that he will be able to effectively lead the department as we fulfill our mandates to the nation,” department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

The department also wished Faustino the best as it welcomed its new leader.

Faustino had been a no-show at the AFP change of command ceremony on Saturday.

Marcos over the weekend re-appointed Andres Centino as military chief, having earlier replaced him with Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro. 

Bacarro was supposed to be the first AFP chief with a three-year term, after a law signed by Duterte in April 2022 set fixed terms for key military officials. 

The law was intended to end the so-called revolving-door policy, referring to the quick succession of AFP chiefs who had to step down after serving for only a few months upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

The AFP chief being replaced prompted destabilization rumors in the country that, having seen several coup attempts, has a fraught history with the military establishment. Over the weekend, alleged destabilization reports spread on chat groups of the military and the police and on social media. 

Both establishments denied it.

Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said he had ordered an investigation into an alleged leaked memorandum placing all police units under heightened alert status. 

He said it was normal for the police force to be on alert during change of command ceremonies, noting the president attends those events.

“As far as the destabilization [plot] is concerned, I don’t think there is one,” Azurin told reporters on Monday.

Military spokesman Medel Aguilar issued a similar denial.

“The truth is we don’t have a problem,” Aguilar said in a radio interview.

“We have nothing to worry about because the situation is normal. Don’t believe reports that there are destabilization plots, because the Armed Forces are professionals.”

PH-PIC2.jpeg
Philippine devotees participate in the “Walk of Faith” procession in Manila as part of celebrations for the feast day of the Black Nazarene, a centuries-old charred statue of Jesus Christ, Jan. 8, 2023. [Aaron Favila/AP]

Earlier, Aguilar said the reported movement of police assets during the weekend was usual practice in preparation for the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila, which drew thousands of devotees.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Army expressed support for Centino, saying it “will always respect and support the decision” of the president and commander-in-chief.

“We are confident that Gen. Centino, who led the AFP from November 2021 to August 2022, will support the Philippine Army in attaining its vision of becoming a world-class land force that is a source of national pride by 2028. The organization is assured on its strides in its modernization thrusts,” it said in a statement on Saturday.

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