By ALFRED GABOT
Editor in Chief
CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City – There is apparently silent grumblings in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense after the heads of the AFP and the DND were replaced in succession reportedly without any hint.
Peace Adviser and former Armed Forces chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. took over the defense portfolio after his classmate in the Philippine Military Academy, former AFP chief Jose Faustino Jr., resigned grumbling that he was not informed when a new AFP chief was installed. (See related stories)
Galvez downplayed the reported dissatisfaction and grumblings in the AFP and DND due to the revamp as he called for unity under President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and keep the “One Defense” team intact during a transition briefing at the DND main office in Camp Aguinaldo.
“We will sustain the gains of the past Secretaries and will also further enhance the capability of our national defense,” he said.
He also emphasized the importance of employee morale in the DND and professionalism in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in maintaining the trust and confidence of the Filipino people.
Another DND official said there is no need to check the loyalty of the Armed Forces amid rumors of a destabilization plot against the administration of President Marcos Jr.
In a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Defense Undersecretary for capability assessment and development Angelito de Leon said there is no question as to the morale of the troops which he said remains high.
“There is no need for a loyalty check. The AFP remains steadfast and loyal to the Constitution, to the flag and to the duly-constituted authorities,” said De Leon, a retired Army general.
He said newly named Defense SecretaryGalvez Jr. has instructed senior defense officials — who were planning to submit courtesy resignations — to stay put.
Rumors about the destabilization plot spread after President Marcos Jr designated Gen. Andres Centino as Armed Forces chief last Friday, cutting short the three-year term of Centino’s predecessor, Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro, provided by a law that took effect in July last year.
De Leon defended the turnover stressing there is nothing irregular in the designation of Centino as the military chief.
“It is the prerogative of the commander-in-chief to designate not only the chief of staff (of the Armed Forces) but also of course the key officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and DND civilian bureaus,” said De Leon.
De Leon also noted the high number of military officials who attended the traditional joint DND-AFP New Year’s call at Camp Aguinaldo.
“All the key commanders were there, including the key staff officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the DND civilian bureaus. So I think there is no issue on the morale, the morale remains high, they are focused on our mandate,” said De Leon.
De Leon said the Armed Forces has already dismissed rumors about the destabilization plot.
“The message of Secretary Galvez is that the one defense team should remain united and should pursue and focus on its mandate. Basically, that’s what he said in our transition briefing yesterday (Tuesday),” said De Leon.
Senators, meanwhile supported the appointment of Secretary Galvez Jr. citing him as the best man to lead the Department of National Defense (DND).
Senator Jinggoy Estrada said this decision of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., which came three days after the designation of Gen. Andres Centino as Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, will somehow give a sense of stability insofar as the leadership in the DND and its attached agencies/organizations are concerned.
“I am hoping that Galvez will eventually be nominated for confirmation before the Commission on Appointments to allow him to fully discharge his functions and responsibilities, not just in an acting capacity” the senator said in a statement.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, for his part, said he sees no problem for Galvez to pass the Commission on Appointment (CA) saying he knows the officer personally as they have been working in the Bangsamoro Organic Law, when the former was the AFP Chief of Staff.
As for Centino, Zubiri said he will still need CA approval although he was already a 4-star General. Centino was appointed as AFP chief of staff by then President Rodrigo Duterte. He was replaced by Lt. General Bartolome Vicente Orpilla Bacarro and was reinstated by President Marcos.
Armed Forces spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said the military establishment is not looking into the alleged destabilization plot supposedly coming from its ranks.
“There is no need for an investigation inside the Armed Forces of the Philippines because even after or during the change of command ceremony, we did not even raise our alert level. We maintained the (normal) alert level because everything was normal within the organization,” he said.
Galvez was presented with a formal report highlighting the department’s plans, as well as the 10-point agenda initiated by outgoing officer-in-charge (OIC) Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr.
Galvez also met with senior officials and heads of bureaus and held a discussion with members of the Executive Committee.
The new DND chief also met with Faustino before attending the transition briefing at Camp Aguinaldo.
Faustino briefed Galvez on the different accomplishments of the department, along with his recommendations to ensure continuity in the agency.
The DND-Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are set to hold a New Year’s call on Wednesday.
“We know very well who has the authority or the power to designate the leader of an organization,” said Aguilar, adding the military respects and supports the President’s decision to appoint Centino as AFP chief.
Aguilar said the military is not sure where the supposed destabilization plot came from, noting that soldiers are focused on their mandate to protect the people.
“We know that officers come and go and we have to follow the chain of command always to make sure that the organization is united and that we are able to perform our mandate,” said Aguilar.
Aguilar said he is not sure about individual views of soldiers about the change in the military leadership because the Armed Forces is a “very big organization.”
“But I can assure (the public) that it (Armed Forces) is an organization that follows the chain of command. It’s professional. We are focused on the mission and we follow the chain of command always to make sure that we are united and strong in accomplishing our mission,” said Aguilar.
Centino assumed post the day after the Palace announcement, replacing Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro, during rites presided over by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin at Camp Aguinaldo.