Philippine military chief replaced by retiring general

31

 

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Satur-day cut short the term of the military chief of staff he appointed five months ago and replaced him with a retiring general without explaining the surprise move.

Marcos’s office announced the replacement of Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro, who had received the highest military award for combat bravery. A state-ment late Friday that did not specify any reason for the change in military leadership. Bacarro’s three-year term was supposed to end in August 2025.

The appointment of military chiefs is a sensitive issue. The military has a history of restiveness, failed coup attempts, corruption scandals and has faced accusations of human rights violations. Efforts have been made for years to instill professionalism in the military and insulate it from the country’s traditionally chaotic and corruption-tainted politics.

Lt. Gen. Andres Centino, the military chief of staff who Bacarro replaced in August last year, was installed by Marcos to the top post of the 144,000-strong armed forces. Centino, who was due to retire next month, was chosen over a dozen senior generals and will have a fresh three-year term.

Asked for reaction on his removal, Bacarro told reporters without elaborating Friday night in a text message that the military would support the new chief.

National police spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said police forces have been placed on “heightened alert” mainly to secure an annual religious gathering in Manila. He denied the move was linked to pur-ported military restiveness that has been reported by social media.

A new law that took effect last year fixed the term of the military chief of staff to three years to allow a top general more time to initiate reforms and press a yearslong campaign to modernize an under-funded military confronting Muslim and communist insurgencies and increasingly aggressive actions by China in the disputed South China Sea, where the Philippines lays claim to contested islands, islets and reefs with other coastal states.

In a turnover ceremony at the main military camp in the capital on Saturday, Bacarro handed a saber symbolizing military leadership to Centino and thanked the military, his family and the president. Marcos did not attend but was represented by his close advisers, including Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin.

Bersamin stressed in a speech he was impressed by the smooth military leadership transition, which he said should be emulated by politicians to avoid disruptive post-election unrest like what has hap-pened in America.

“Continue with this tradition, where you respect each other, where you give so much consideration to the qualifications of your fellow officers in order to enable your organization … to move forward instead of looking back,” Bersamin said.—AFP