Denies reports of mass resignation, says ’business as usual’ in camps
The Armed Forces of the Philippines sought to reassure the public on Sunday that the military remained united, stable, and in high spirits despite its change in command and rumors of resignations in its ranks.
In a new statement, the AFP said the change of command to returning military chief Gen. Andres Centino from outgoing chief of staff Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro went “smoothly.”
Military spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar also told ABS-CBN News it is “business as usual” in camps across the country, adding there was no truth to reports soldiers and other officials were resigning en masse.
AFP Public Affairs Office chief Col. Jorry Baclor backed Aguilar’s statement, saying in a text message: “Morale of soldiers remain(s) very high, wala naman nagbago (nothing has changed).”
On Saturday, both the military and the police denied destabilization rumors following the Armed Forces’ change in command and the Philippine National Police (PNP) going on heightened alert status, purportedly for the AFP’s command turnover, which was later overturned.
The military also belied stories circulating that the police was preparing to respond to destabilization threats in Camp Aguinaldo.
This included reports of helicopters landing and taking off from Malacanang on Saturday night, which neither the PNP nor the Office of the Press Secretary commented on as of press time.
Police spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo told reporters on Saturday the PNP was placed on full alert for the AFP’s command turnover but rescinded it back to a heightened alert.
The amassing of mobile trucks and tanks at the police national headquarters Camp Crame and increased police visibility in checkpoints across the country were part of police preparations for major religious festivities, including the Feast of the Black Nazarene today, Fajardo added (see related story on A1 – Editors).
The Philippine Army, where Centino served, said Sunday it was looking forward to the support from their erstwhile commanding general upon his return.
“We are confident that Gen. Centino, who earlier led the AFP from November 2021 to August 2022, will support the Philippine Army in attaining its vision of becoming a world-class land force that is a source of national pride by 2028. The organization is assured of its strides in its modernization thrusts,” the Army statement read.
The other branches of the AFP also welcomed the return of Centino, who took over from Bacarro just four months after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appointed the latter, a Medal of Valor awardee, to head the Armed Forces.
The Philippine Navy “will continue to fulfill its mandate to support the mission of the AFP in protecting and securing our country and our people,” its statement read.
The Philippine Air Force said it “remains loyal to our flag and our Constitution, and as a force provider, we will stay committed in our mandate to support the mission of the AFP in securing and defending our country and people.”
However, House Deputy Minority Leader and party-list lawmaker Rep. France Castro on Sunday expressed concern over rumored internal conflicts in the military that could possibly lead to coups and more human rights violations.
She pointed to Republic Act No. 11709, which fixes to three years the term and tenure of “key officers” in the AFP, including the chief of staff and commanders of the three branches, as the source of conflict.
“It seems that the law is creating tensions or divisions within the military, as some members may feel that they have been passed over for promotion or that the selection process was not fair,” the ACT Teachers representative said in a statement.
“Some military officers are strongly lobbying for it to be repealed or at least amended by Congress. So political favors are expected to be owed when that happens.”
An amendment to the 2022 law, which now seeks to limit the three-year-term only to the military’s most senior officials, passed the third reading in the House at the end of last year.
“That is the sad state of the AFP today that officers are wrangling among themselves to get to the top rank and get a bigger piece of the pie while their soldiers are committing human rights violations left and right,” Castro added.
In his speech at the AFP change of command ceremony on Saturday, Centino called on members of the military to refrain from “squabbling” over interpretations of the law.
He said the law only seeks to strengthen the Armed Forces and pave the way for selecting the most “competent, capable, and deserving” military leaders.
“The AFP assures everyone that everything is normal,” its statement read.
“As a professional organization, the whole AFP is united behind the leadership of Gen. Centino as it continues to perform its mission of protecting the people and defending territorial integrity and national sovereignty,” the military said.
Aguilar added Centino has yet to meet with the AFP’s key leaders to give his marching orders.