PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III is already considering whom to appoint as Armed Forces chief of staff, but military insiders said there was no assurance Aquino’s appointee would be able to serve out a complete tour of duty pending the results of the coming elections.
“The Commander-in-Chief, the President, I was told by one of his trusted men in Malacañang, is really thinking hard and would not want to make a mistake again who to appoint as the successor of Gen. Irriberi,” said a senior officer who is privy to the selection process.
Irriberi will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on April 22 and Aquino reportedly wants to appoint someone like Philippine National Police Director General Ricardo Marquez whose mandatory retirement will be in August yet.
The source, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said Aquino is not keen on appointing the vice chief of staff, Lieutenant General Romeo Tanalgo, because he is from the Philippine Marines which is identified with presidential candidate Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Binay is honorary member of Philippine Military Academy “Maringal” Class of 1988.
“It would be a political suicide for the Liberal Party if the President appoints Gen. Tanalgo as interim or acting chief of staff,” the source told The Standard.
The source said Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año would be “natural successor” to Irriberi, but he is being linked to the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos.
“Assuming the President would appoint Gen. Año, there is no assurance he would not be replaced by whoever is elected president. If I were the new president, I wouldn’t want to begin my presidency facing public protests because my current chief of staff is linked to the abduction and disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos,” another senior officer opined.
Año still has more than one year remaining in service by the time the new president assumes power on June 1, but that is not an assurance he would not be relieved or retired early, like what Aquino did to the late military chief Gen. Delfin Bangit in 2010.
Soon after Aquino assumed power he kicked out Bangit as chief of staff although he still had more than a year remaining in service because Bangit was former President Gloria Arroyo was an honorary member of Bangit’s Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978.
Unlike service command positions that require at least one year remaining in service to qualify for appointment, the chief of staff position has no time qualification as this is a prerogative of the commander-in-chief.
Meanwhile, sources said 4th Infantry Division chief Major General Oscar Lactao has been designated to replace AFP Inspector General Maj. Gen. Benito de Leon who will reach mandatory retirement in March. The turnover of command for the AFP-IG, a three-star position, is tentatively scheduled on March 17.
Another two-star position based at Camp Aguinaldo that would be left vacant soon is the AFP Civil Service Relations with the mandatory retirement of Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala in April.