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Air Force chief ‘retired, not relieved’

/ 07:14 AM December 07, 2018

Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Gerard Galileo Kintanar Jr. / PAF

Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr., the chief of the Philippine Air Force, retired early purportedly to give junior officers the chance to move up the ranks in the military hierarchy.

But there was talk that Kintanar was replaced over questions about the Air Force’s modernization program, which the military was quick to dispel.

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Kintanar was not due to step down until January 2020, when he would reach the mandatory retirement age of 56.

“He said he will retire early,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Inquirer.net in a text message on Wednesday night. He did not elaborate.

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Kintanar was replaced by Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez.

At a press conference on Thursday at Camp Aguinaldo, Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the public affairs office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said Kintanar’s retirement “was an internal matter [among] officers.”

“The AFP is a very dynamic and professional organization. There are officers who give way so that the other junior officers can go up [in the hierarchy],” Detoyato said.

AFP modernization

“It has nothing to do with [AFP] modernization,” he added, referring to speculation that Kintanar was replaced because of his support for the recommendation of the Air Force’s technical working group (TWG) for the acquisition of attack helicopters.

The project is part of the AFP modernization program.

The defense website MaxDefense Philippines, citing sources in the military, said Kintanar was relieved nine days after he announced the TWG’s choice of the Turkish Aerospace Industries T129 Atak helicopter during the anniversary of the 15th Strike Wing on Nov. 26 at Sangley Point in Cavite.

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Detoyato said Kintanar was not relieved, but “gave way because there are some junior officers who want to go up because they might run out of time.”

‘No issue of corruption’

“There is no issue of corruption whatsoever. It is for the professional growth of the whole organization,” he said.

Kintanar, he said, might be temporarily assigned to the military’s general headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo on detached service status.

Detoyato stressed that Kintanar’s case was completely different from that of Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado, the former Navy flag officer-in-command, who was relieved over issues in the choice of a combat management system (CMS) for two frigates that the Navy was acquiring for P16 billion.

Mercado reportedly questioned the contract with South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) whose CMS choice was incompatible with the system already in use in the Navy.

He reportedly insisted that the new frigates be equipped with the same system.

But the Department of National Defense backed HHI and said the company had the right to choose another CMS supplier. The frigates are set to be delivered to the country in 2020.

A retired general, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “there was actually a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ for Kintanar to give way to Briguez because the two are set to retire at about the same time” in 2020.

No problem with Kintanar

“I don’t believe that it had to do with the helicopter project. I even know that the President has no problems with Kintanar at the helm,” the general said.

Briguez, who was appointed Air Force chief by President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1986.

Prior to his appointment, Briguez headed the Western Command, which is tasked with securing the country’s western frontier, including the West Philippine Sea. —WITH A REPORT FROM FRANCES MANGOSING

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