By Hanah Tabios
Incoming Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said Thursday that he will uphold President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign to end insurgency in the Philippines once he formally assumes office as the new military chief.
Malacañan released a document on Thursday confirming his appointment.
Santos is the current chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City. He will replace AFP chief Noel Clement who will retire on Sunday, Jan. 4, after serving only three months as the head of the military.
In a television interview aired over CNN Philippines, Santos said his top priority will be the attainment of peace in the country by ending local insurgency and armed conflict with the communist rebel group.
“Because ‘yan talaga ang objective ni Presidente [na] within his term na matapos na ‘yan. So, all efforts ay ginagawa niya para ma-attain natin [na] magkaroon ng peace, kasi we have been here for almost 50 years. Na-stagnant ‘yung progress natin, nale-late tayo sa ating mga ASEAN countries na ating mga kasabay,” he said.
(That’s the President’s objective, to end all that within his term. So we are making all efforts to attain peace, because we’ve been [in conflict] for 50 years. Our progress has become stagnant, and we are late in catching up to our neighboring ASEAN countries.)
Santos also expressed support for the implementation of Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 which institutionalized the whole-of-nation approach to attain inclusive and sustainable peace. It also created a national task force to end local communist armed conflict.
“We will try to…mawala yang (to disperse) NPAs (New People’s Army), ‘yung mga (those) armed groups so that the local chief executive could implement their good governance on their respective localities,” he added when asked about his priority measures once he assumes his new post.
Santos will serve for only seven months as he will reach mandatory age retirement next year. The change-of-command ceremony is scheduled on Saturday, Jan. 4, at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
“In the next seven months siguro (maybe), there are certain regions siguro na matitira yung mga nahuhuli (there will be remnants) just like the province of Samar na medyo kailangan pa ng talagang (where we need more) effort with all the players,” the veteran intelligence officer said.
In December last year, members of the NPA allegedly committed a treacherous attack in Libuton village in Borongan City, Eastern Samar, killing a rookie police officer and an elderly woman. The explosion also injured 12 individuals, including three minors.
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison said earlier that peace negotiations will only resume if the Duterte administration will adopt goodwill measures, such as the termination of de facto militarization in the country in the form of EO 70, among others.