AFP units back Centino amid talk of unrest | Inquirer News

AFP units back Centino amid talk of unrest

/ 05:50 AM January 09, 2023

Andres Centino. STORY: AFP units back Centino amid talk of unrest

Gen. Andres Centino, AFP chief. (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines — In an apparent show of unity, major service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have rallied behind the leadership of the reappointed chief of staff, Gen. Andres Centino, over the weekend, amid talk of unrest among their troops.

The Philippine Army, Philippine Navy, and Philippine Air Force on Saturday night issued separate statements welcoming Centino on his second stint as AFP chief and declaring support for President Marcos’ decision to bring him back at the helm of the military.


Earlier that day, Centino formally assumed his former position and delivered a speech urging the military to stop its “squabbling” among their ranks.


In a reversal of fortune, he replaced his military academy classmate Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro only five months after the latter took over as the country’s top military commander in August, leaving Centino on “floating” status at the time.

On Saturday, the two switched roles, with Bacarro handing over leadership of the military to his batchmate during a subdued ceremony.


Marcos’ decision supported

The Army in its statement said: “We will always respect and support the decision of the President and Commander in Chief Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.”

The Navy, describing itself as a “professional organization,” said it “wholly supports the decision of the Commander in Chief.”

Echoing this, the Air Force said it “remains a stable and dependable organization,” as it also expressed support for the President’s move. Yet questions about the surprise turnover persisted, fueling talk of a destabilization plot among the uniformed ranks.

Palace faction

On Saturday, an administration official, who asked not to be named for not having authority to speak on the subject, told the Inquirer that Centino had originally been sidelined because a faction in Malacañang had allegedly orchestrated his ouster by offering him a sham appointment to pave the way for Bacarro’s ascension.

By reinstating Centino, the Palace was essentially rectifying the “wrong” done to Centino, the official said.

That source also recalled telling a ranking Palace official: “What you did to Andy was wrong.”

The source claimed it was only then that the Palace learned the story of why Centino had been replaced “to give way to Bacarro.”

The Inquirer reached out to those officials but did not immediately receive a reply.

Some observers weighed in on the circumstances behind Centino’s return to the AFP.

“Was the reappointment of Centino meant to correct the perceived miscues of then Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez under whose stint Bacarro was appointed to succeed Centino?” retired AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo wrote in his column in the Manila Times on Sunday.

“Is this a way of restitution for Centino and finally retiring Bacarro who could have retired on Sept. 18, 2022?” he added.

In a post on Twitter, political scientist Cleve Arguelles wondered why Centino was reappointed “despite potentially destabilizing consequences? Why is the appointment worth the trouble?”

“[T]here’s nothing like making the path to a four-star general more uncertain that demoralizes and politicizes officers who are supposedly next in line. And there goes the supposed goal of regularizing the tour of duty of joint chiefs chairman to make AFP more professional,” he said.

Fixed term

Centino will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 in February.

Malacañang has yet to clarify if he will serve a fresh term under Republic Act No. 11709 — enacted by then President Rodrigo Duterte in April last year — which set a fixed three-year term on key military posts.

Bacarro, who was supposed to be the first AFP chief to serve that fixed term under the new law, was appointed AFP chief around a month before he was supposed to retire.  Saturday’s change of command at the military headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo was held indoors without the traditional military honors and parade.

Acting Defense Secretary Jose Faustino Jr. skipped the event for unspecified reasons. Marcos was also absent.

Joining Centino and Bacarro on stage instead were Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Special Assistant to the President Antonio Lagdameo, and acting AFP chief chaplain Col. Daniel Tansip.

Lapsed ban

Faustino was rumored to have filed a courtesy resignation following the sudden change of AFP leadership supposedly behind his back. But there was no confirmation from either the Department of National Defense (DND) or Malacañang.

Marcos named Faustino as his defense secretary in June, but due to an appointment ban on retired military officials, he could only be officially designated senior undersecretary and officer in charge of the DND.

The ban lapsed in November, but there has been no word on whether he will become a full-fledged defense secretary.

Leaked memos from the Philippine National Police placing its units on heightened alert “in view of the resignation of all the Department of National Defense personnel” at Camp Aguinaldo circulated over the weekend, further fueling speculations.

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The PNP neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the memos, only saying it was on heightened alert in preparation for the annual Black Nazarene festivities.


Returning AFP chief tells troops: Stop ‘squabbling’

PNP on heightened alert for Black Nazarene feast, not for alleged destab plot, says spox

Marcos puts Centino back as AFP chief; Bacarro out


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