Faustino bares being out of loop on AFP changes | Inquirer News

Faustino bares being out of loop on AFP changes

Resigned Defense Secretary Jose Faustino Jr. and Secretary Clarita Carlos, national security adviser. STORY: Faustino bares being out of loop on AFP changes

Resigned Defense Secretary Jose Faustino Jr. and Dr. Clarita Carlos, national security adviser. (INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS)

MANILA, Philippines — Resigned interim defense chief Jose Faustino Jr. on Tuesday admitted being blindsided by the abrupt change of command in the Armed Forces of the Philippines that had sparked talk of unrest in the military, prompting him to quit his post.

In a statement, the officer in charge (OIC) of the Department of National Defense broke his silence about the leadership change that rocked the uniformed services over the weekend, saying he received word only from the media about the return of Gen. Andres Centino to the top AFP post and the exit of Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro.

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“With utmost respect, I submitted my irrevocable letter of resignation to [President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.] on Friday … after learning only from news and social media reports that an oath of office of the new AFP chief of staff had taken place at Malacañang,” Faustino said.

Rumors of his resignation first circulated after he didn’t appear at the Jan. 7 ceremony that put Centino back at the helm as the replacement of Bacarro, whom Faustino had supported.

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On Monday, Marcos accepted Faustino’s resignation “with deep regret” and tapped former peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. as the next defense chief.

Nine other top DND officials joined their OIC in turning in their courtesy resignation purportedly to give the newly appointed secretary a free hand in assembling his own team.

But Malacañang on Tuesday disputed Faustino’s claim that he had no prior knowledge of the appointment.

A statement released by Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil pointed out that the president enjoyed the “sole prerogative” to appoint the AFP chief.

“According to Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, [Faustino] knew of the developments with regard to the appointment of Gen. Andres Centino, who is the only four-star general in the AFP,” it said.

But a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, supported Faustino’s version of events, describing the Palace move of bypassing the defense department as “a no-no.”

“The process was bastardized. If you bastardize the process, you also bastardize the institution so dearly loved by the soldiers,” he told the Inquirer.

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“One of the strengths of the chain of command is transparency,” the source added, calling what happened a “saddening, bad precedent.”

In the traditional selection of the AFP chief and other key officials, it is the AFP Board of Generals, led by the AFP chief and composed of the commanding generals of the major services, vice chief of staff, and deputy chief of staff, that comes up with a list of nominees.

The defense department then vets the recommendations and forwards a shortlist to the president, who will make the final choice.

On Saturday, the AFP leadership turnover was held on short notice and indoors in the military headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City without the traditional honors and parade, according to a senior military official who attended the event.

“We were all shocked… We were informed on Friday night that there will be a ceremony at 9 a.m. the next day,” he said.

In August last year, it was Centino, then the incumbent AFP chief and a four-star general, who gave way to the three-star general Bacarro and was put on “floating status.”

He was later nominated as ambassador to India but never got to assume the post before returning to the AFP.

Faustino also served as AFP chief and was succeeded by Centino in November 2021. The three of them belong to the Class of 1988 of the Philippine Military Academy.

On Tuesday, an AFP spokesperson said the transition from Bacarro to Centino had been “very smooth.”

“This is part of our tradition, and, of course, officers come and go,” Col. Medel Aguilar said during the televised Laging Handa public briefing.

Asked to comment on Faustino’s statement, Aguilar replied: “I think I am not competent enough to make a reaction on something that is way above my pay grade.”

4-star vs 3-star general

On Monday evening, National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos said she, too, had not been informed of the AFP leadership change.

“Like you, I’m equally confused. I’m not really privy to what’s happening in the Palace,” she said in an interview on One News.

Carlos said she suspected that the conflict stemmed from the newly enacted Republic Act No. 11709, which prescribed a fixed three-year term for key positions in the AFP, including its chief of staff.

“I was also investigating and calling my intel sources and trying to piece [the story] together… and I have yet to crochet them together to have a better understanding of what is going on,” she said.

Bacarro, who reached the retirement age of 56 in September 2022, a month after his appointment as AFP chief in August of that year, should have been the first beneficiary of the new law.

As for Centino, who turns 56 next month, it is not yet clear whether he will serve a fresh three-year term or retire.

“I also looked into the history of this. It seems that when a new president is elected, the chief of staff is replaced by his own choice, except in this case, the four-star [general] did not retire but remained four-star and is floating somewhere,” Carlos said.

In the AFP, there is only one four-star general.

“Bacarro is chief of staff [but he has only three stars]. Here is a four-star general who is not retired and a chief of staff who is a three-star and supposed to be taking a four-star position. So this is where the conundrum in my mind happens,” she said.

RELATED STORIES

Galvez is new defense chief as Faustino quits

Faustino: ‘I cannot allow AFP’s reputation to be tarnished, maligned, or politicized’

Palace says Faustino knew AFP leadership change

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