Galvez is new defense chief as Faustino quits
MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. accepted “with deep regret” the resignation of acting defense chief Jose Faustino Jr. and appointed peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. as the new secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND), Malacañang announced on Monday.
The surprise changing of the guard at the defense department came only two days after the reappointment of Gen. Andres Centino as chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which had ignited rumors of destabilization among the troops over the weekend.
“It is with deep regret that the President has accepted the resignation of DND OIC [officer in charge, Senior Undersecretary] Jose Faustino Jr.,” according to a terse statement issued by Undersecretary Cheloy Garafil of the Presidential Communications Office.
The Palace official said Marcos offered the position of “DND secretary” — not just OIC — to Galvez, the presidential adviser on peace, reconciliation, and unity, who had also served as the “vaccine czar” during the Duterte administration.
Galvez “has accepted” the offer, Malacañang said in the statement accompanied by two photos of Marcos and Galvez talking and shaking hands.
Kept out of the loop
No official reason was given for Faustino’s departure but he had been rumored to have tendered his courtesy resignation supposedly for having lost the president’s trust. He had reportedly been kept out of the loop in Centino’s reappointment and the sudden exit of Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro.
On Saturday, Faustino, a known Bacarro supporter, was conspicuously absent when Centino reclaimed the AFP leadership from Bacarro five months after the latter replaced him in August last year.
At the time, Centino had been put on “floating status” and was later nominated as ambassador to India, a post he never assumed.
Centino, Bacarro, and Faustino all belong to the Class of 1988 of the Philippine Military Academy.
Faustino himself served as AFP chief from July to November 2021, with Centino succeeding him, followed by Bacarro in August 2022 and then Centino again, in a series of developments that had sent shock waves through the military.
On June 17, 2022, Mr. Marcos announced that Faustino was his choice for defense secretary, but the latter could only be appointed as DND’s OIC, in compliance with the one-year ban on the appointment of retired military officers under the law.
He had been expected to formally assume the post in November last year when the ban would have lapsed, but his new appointment papers never came and he remained an OIC.
Galvez is another former AFP chief who served from April to December 2018 after more than 34 years in the military, much of it spent in the provinces of Basilan and Sulu.
He was commander of the Western Mindanao Command from January 2017 to May 2018, leading troops in the liberation of Marawi City in October 2017.
Galvez was sworn in as peace adviser by then-President Rodrigo Duterte in December 2018.
In 2020, Duterte designated Galvez as the chief implementer of the government’s vaccination program under the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
In a statement on Monday, the DND said it welcomed Galvez’s appointment and thanked Faustino for his service but made no comment about the latter’s resignation.
Former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who used to chair the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, said Galvez was a “good choice.”
“Galvez can provide the leadership that the defense establishment needs especially during the transition period of the implementation of the law on fixed terms of generals holding key positions in the AFP,” he said.
Lacson was referring to Republic Act No. 11709, which took effect on July 1, prescribing fixed three-year terms for key officers of the AFP, including the chief of staff, which had allegedly stirred resentments among top military leaders who lost their chance at promotion as a result of the law.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III received news of Galvez’s appointment with guarded optimism.
“I have no idea why these developments are happening. I hope there are no serious reasons behind all of these developments,” he said, alluding to reports of internal discord within the DND and the AFP.
ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro expressed worry over the alleged squabbling in the AFP, saying it “might lead to a coup d’etat like in the past.”
Leaked police memos
Amid talk of unrest in the military, the Philippine National Police on Saturday said its declaration of a full alert over the weekend was not due to any destabilization plot as alleged by leaked police directives.
On Monday, the PNP chief, Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., said he ordered an investigation into the supposed memorandum placing all police units on heightened alert status “in view of the resignation of all the [DND] personnel.”
The investigation would look into the supposed signatory of the circulating memo, Lt. Col. Dexter Ominga of the Cordillera regional police office, he said.
“The appropriate charges as well as the consequences of the lapses, if any, will be meted to [Ominga],” Azurin told a press briefing.
But an intelligence source told the Inquirer that the PNP memo was authentic and had been traced to the originating unit.