Top NPA hunter in Mindanao is new Army chief

Published May 16, 2021, 7:13 AM

by Martin Sadongdong

President Duterte has appointed Major General Andres Centino as the new Commanding General of the 100,000-strong Philippine Army (PA), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has confirmed.

Maj. Gen. Andres Centino is the new Commanding General of the Philippine Army. (Photo courtesy of 4th Infantry Division Facebook page)

Duterte reportedly sent Lorenzana a letter to confirm the designation of Centino on May 14.

“Yes, MGen. Andres Centino [is new Army chief],” Lorenzana told reporters.

Centino replaced his “mistah,” Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr., who served at the top Army post in an acting capacity for barely three months. Faustino took office on February 16.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said Centino’s appointment came at a time when the AFP “is vigorously pursuing its initiatives and building on its gains” to defeat various local security threats such as the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF).

“This is where his attributes are expected to contribute immensely. Given his known professionalism, operational experience, and managerial skills gained from various leadership echelons of the AFP, Maj. Gen. Centino will undoubtedly stir the Army to greater heights,” Arevalo stressed.

Prior to being the Army Chief, Centino served as the commander of the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division (4ID) which is based in Cagayan de Oro City.

The 4ID is regarded as the largest Philippine Army maneuvering division of the AFP in the southern part of the country. It covers the areas of Northern Mindanao (Region 10) and Caraga (Region 13).

Centino is a seasoned military officer who led the 4ID’s operations, primarily focusing on anti-insurgency campaigns, since May 29, 2020.

He graduated on top of his class at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Maringal” class of 1988, along with Faustino.

Meanwhile, the DND and AFP have yet to provide details where Faustino will be transferred.

Faustino’s brief stint as acting Army Commanding General was met with utmost scrutiny.

After Faustino took office on February 16, Senator Panfilo Lacson had reportedly questioned his designation as acting Army chief a month later, citing Section 4 of the Republic Act 8186 or an an act which prescribes the officer grade distribution in the active force of the AFP.

The provision states that except for the Chief of Staff of the AFP, no officer shall be assigned or designated as AFP Vice Chief of Staff, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff, or AFP Major Service Commander, or promoted to the rank of Brigadier General/Commodore or higher “if he has less than one year of active service remaining prior to compulsory retirement.”

Faustino had less than one year in service when he took office as Army Commanding General, a major service post, in February. He is set to retire in November upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 for uniformed personnel.

Aside from being the acting Army chief, Faustino held various key command roles throughout his 36 years in service including as the commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command; Philippine Army Chief of Staff; and Commandant of Cadets and Head Tactics Group at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

He also served as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Education and Training of the Philippine Army and Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the 10th Infantry “Agila” Division where he led the dismantling of six “Pulang Bagani” Commands and four Guerilla Fronts of the NPA in one year.

Among the units he also commanded include the 7th Scout Ranger Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and the 501st Infantry Brigade.