Cayetano is DFA head; Año is DILG secretary
President Duterte has appointed Gen. Eduardo Año, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as the next secretary of the interior and local government and named his defeated running mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, as the new secretary of foreign affairs.
Mr. Duterte announced his new appointments before departing for Cambodia on Wednesday, the same day the yearlong ban on appointing losing candidates to government offices ended.
“You are now facing the next DILG secretary,” Mr. Duterte said in a press briefing at the airport, with Año at his side.
Año will retire from the military on Oct. 26, when he turns 56 and he has to wait until then before taking over the top post of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
The former Philippine Army commander became AFP chief of staff last December. He received his fourth star in January.
Mr. Duterte said he wanted Año to finish his term because he had projects that he needed to complete.
In a phone interview later, Año said he was surprised by the early announcement of his appointment.
He said there was still no definite date for his assumption of the top DILG post.
“I will still continue and focus on my job as chief of staff. We still have a lot of tasks to do,” he said.
Año will replace former Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno, whom Mr. Duterte fired in April over alleged corruption involving the purchase of firetrucks from Austria.
Undersecretary Catalino Cuy is running the DILG as acting interior secretary.
Año’s designation as interior secretary follows the appointment of Roy Cimatu, also a former AFP chief of staff, as environment secretary on Monday.
“There’s another vacancy, I will add another from the military, and our junta is complete,” Mr. Duterte joked.
The other former military officials in Mr. Duterte’s administration are National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Irrigation Administration chief Ricardo Visaya.
Mr. Duterte said he needed a military man at the DILG because he had a problem with the police.
“It’s difficult with the police now. I was reading coming here, another spot report of four policemen again kidnapping… these sons of bitches policemen,” he said.
The country also faces a problem with terrorism, including the Islamic State (IS) group, he added.
The DILG exercises supervision over the Philippine National Police, which plays the lead role in Mr. Duterte’s controversial war on drugs.
Top diplomatic post
Thousands of drug suspects have been killed by police and unknown assailants since Mr. Duterte launched the crackdown on drugs after taking office at the end of June last year.
Cayetano, who had been traveling with Mr. Duterte in his many foreign trips, defended the war on drugs at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s review of the Philippines’ human rights record in Geneva on Monday.
He blamed the perception of extrajudicial killings in the campaign on the “Commission on Human Rights, a senator and some local media,” but 45 of the 47 members of the council demanded an end to the killings, with some urging an independent investigation.
After losing last year’s vice presidential race to the Liberal Party’s Leni Robredo, Cayetano, 46, returned to the Senate, where he became a staunch defender of Mr. Duterte.
In announcing his choice of Cayetano for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Mr. Duterte said he signed the senator’s appointment before he left his room on Wednesday.
In an interview aired on radio from his flight back to Manila, Cayetano said Mr. Duterte’s announcement of his appointment came as a surprise because he had thought he would no longer get the DFA portfolio, as the President once said he was needed more in the Senate.
“With the President you just don’t know. He has his own strategy,” Cayetano said.
He will replace former Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, whose nomination was rejected by the Commission on Appointments in March because of his uncertain citizenship.
“We look forward to working with him (Cayetano) and the department is now preparing to ensure a smooth institutional transition,” Robespierre Bolivar, spokesperson for the DFA, said on Wednesday.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said he believed the Commission on Appointments would quickly approve the nominations of Año and Cayetano.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the commission’s foreign affairs committee, said he hoped the panel would quickly act on Cayetano’s nomination so that he could assume the top DFA post soon. —WITH REPORTS FROM PHILIP C. TUBEZA, JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE AND CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO
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