New Army chief takes over; outgoing head still in line for ‘higher’ post

New Army commanding general Maj. Gen. Andres Centino was formally installed into the post on Tuesday, replacing Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino who, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, is still in the running for a higher position.

Lorenzana, who led the change of command ceremony at the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, said Faustino’s removal as acting Army chief was unprecedented, following an apparent “mistake” to designate the latter as such.

“I think the higher-ups made a mistake because there is a law that says that no general officer will be designated as chief of services — that means the Army, Navy, Air Force — if they have less than one year in the service before retirement,” Lorenzana said in a speech.

Faustino, who formerly headed the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command that covers President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown Davao City, was appointed acting chief of the Army in mid-February with only about nine months of active service in the military.

“We have to do it (remove Faustino) to address some legal infirmities in his designation as commanding general.”

“There was a very big challenge to the legitimacy of his being the commanding general of the Philippine Army so he had to be removed, and placed in a position of major responsibility as well, while waiting for a designation to a higher position,” Lorenzana said.

New post

Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, AFP chief, told reporters that Faustino will, “for the meantime,” serve as his special assistant for peace and development.

The new post will see Faustino focus on the “normalization” in Bangsamoro region, particularly the decommissioning of firearms, members, and base commands of former secessionist groups, he said.

Sobejana said Faustino’s removal as head of the Army shows that the rule of law still prevails, but admitted that there was some “delay” in relieving the latter.

“The designation had to take some time because the President has to be very deliberate in designating key positions in the Armed Forces. So that may be the reason why nagkaroon ng kaunting delay, dahil gusto ni Presidente iupo, talagang magdeliver, and contribute to the accomplishment of our mission and achievement of peace and development.”

Senator Panfilo Lacson first questioned Faustino’s appointment in March, citing Republic Act 8186.

Chief’s thrusts

Centino, at the change of command ceremony, outlined his thrusts for his term as 64th commanding general of the Army.

Among these was to continuously improve on personnel management, operations, intelligence, logistics, and training.

Centino said that under his leadership, the Army will also define the allocation of resources so field units can maximize their capabilities.

He also emphasized discipline among soldiers, and vowed to strengthen evaluation ratings that will be used to determine positions and promotions.

“We will sustain our endeavor to modernize. Acquisition of new equipment and technology shall be prioritized,” Centino added.

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