New Army Chief vows final blow vs. communist insurgents, terrorists, secessionists

Published May 18, 2021, 2:08 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Major General Andres Centino formally assumed post as the 64th Commanding General of the Philippine Army (PA) on Tuesday, May 18, with a promise to deliver the final blows against communist insurgents, terrorists, and secessionist groups in the country.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana presides over the Change of Command ceremony between new Philippine Army Chief Maj. Gen. Andres Centino and outgoing Army Chief Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr. at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City on May 18, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Department of National Defense)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana presided over the Change of Command Ceremony between Centino and Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr. at the PA Headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. It was graced by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief General Cirilito Sobejana.

“You are expected to guarantee the Philippine Army’s readiness in dealing with current and emerging multi-faceted challenges and equally important, you have to ensure that your human resources are well trained and ready to face the challenges ahead,” Lorenzana told Centino.

In his speech, Centino said the country is “on the brink of victory” in its fight against communist, terrorist, and secessionist groups and all that needs to be done is to continue the government’s “whole of nation” approach.

“Today as we simultaneously wage war in different fronts, working within a whole of nation framework, the Army, all stakeholders, our country is on the brink of victory against communist insurgency, secessionism, and terrorism,” he said.

“The Army must remain focused to continuously improve on our readiness in personnel management, operations, intelligence, logistics and training. This [is] to provide our soldiers the advantage in the fights that lie ahead. These priority areas will serve as a framework to build further our Army [while] anchored on the guidelines of the Army Transformation Roadmap,” he added.

Centino is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy “Maringal” Class of 1988.

Prior to the post, Centino served as the commander of the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Divison based in Cagayan de Oro City where he led the anti-communist insurgency campaigns in Northern Mindanao (Region 10) and Caraga (Region 13).

“In the Northern Mindanao and Caraga region where I have served, the inter-agency cooperation and collaboration have enabled our Army units in the field to engage the enemy decisively, resulting in dismantled guerilla fronts, reduction in the enemy strength and the liberation of communities from the clutches of the communist-terrorist group,” he said.

He also served as the battalion commander of the 26th Infantry Battalion in 2008; Secretary Army General Staff in 2013; and commander of the 401st Infantry Brigade in 2017.

He was also assigned as the deputy chief of staff for operations, J3, at AFP General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in 2019 befoer he eventually became the 4ID commander in 2020.

But as the new Army Chief, Centino is expected to deal much more than that as the Army tries to adapt to the evolving nature of security threats in the country.

Centino said that under his leadership, the Army will focus on ending the scourge of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as well as the militant Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) among others.

Meanwhile, Lorenzana thanked Faustino for leading the Army albeit only in a short period.

“A lot of people were asking why he’s been relieved very early. This is unprecedented in the history of the Philippine Army when a Commanding General will leave before his time due, but we have to do it to address some legal infirmities in his designation as Commanding General,” Lorenzana said.

Faustino’s designation as an acting Army chief was questioned by Senator Panfilo Lacson since it is a violation of Section 4 of the Republic Act 8186 which prohibits the designation of any officer as AFP Vice Chief of Staff, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff, or AFP Major Service Commander “if he has less than one year of active service remaining prior to compulsory retirement.”

Faustino, who took office as acting Army chief in February, is set to retire in November.

“I think the higher-ups made a mistake,” Lorenzana said.

“There was a very big challenge on the legitimacy of his being Commanding General of the Philippine Army so he had to be removed and placed on a position of major responsibility as well while waiting for a designation to more higher or higher position,” he added.

Faustino was transferred to the Office of the Chief of Staff, AFP as a “special assistant on peace and development.”

Addressing rumors that Faustino is being groomed to be the next AFP Chief, Sobejana said the public should not preempt President Duterte and just wait for the Commander-in-Chief’s decision.

“Hintayin na lang po natin kung ano ‘yong susunod na kabanata (Let us just wait for the next chapter,” said Sobejana, who is set to retire on July 31, 2021.