Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr., whose stint as the acting Commanding General of the Philippine Army (PA) was cut short in May due to retirement issues, has been designated as the new commander of a newly-formed joint task force (JTF) that aims to “widen the military’s efforts in dismantling threat groups in Mindanao.”
AFP Chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana led the launching of the JTF for Peace and Security in Mindanao (JTF-Mindanao) on Friday, June 4, at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
“The creation of JTF-Mindanao aims to unify the efforts of the two unified commands, the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) and Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM), to widen its reach in addressing common peace and security problems most especially in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and its peripheries,” Sobejana said.
Sobejana said Faustino will lead the JTF-Mindanao after he was replaced by Maj. Gen. Andres Centino as the PA Commanding General last May 18.
According to Sobejana, the creation of JTF-Mindanao was conceptualized as an offshoot of President Duterte’s directive to the AFP during a Command Conference in Cotabato City last May 8.
He said the JTF-Mindanao is tasked to assist local government units (LGUs) and the Joint Normalization Committee in ensuring the success of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), particularly on the normalization process of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants.
It was also instructed to further develop and implement a contingency plan “to defeat armed terrorist groups and other peace spoilers that would pose as serious threat to the smooth implementation of the Final Peace Agreement and the transition to Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as embodied in the Bangsamoro Organic Law.”
Moreover, JTF-Mindanao is also ordered to synchronize the operations of EASTMINCOM and WESTMINCOM “in the holistic whole of nation approach to restore peace and order in conflict-affected areas as well as prevent conflicts in vulnerable areas.”
Faustino’s unprecedented removal from office as the Army chief paved the way for his installation as the JTF-Mindanao commander.
He was appointed as the Army chief in February but was ordered to give up his position in May due to violation of Section 4 of the Republic Act 8186.
His appointment was questioned by Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, who said that AFP officers are prohibited to take major service command posts — such as the Army chief — “if he has less than one year of active service remaining prior to compulsory retirement.”
Faustino is set to retire in November this year.
Prior to being the Army chief, Faustino served as a battalion and brigade commander in Western Mindanao particularly in Basilan and Sulu.
He also became a commander of the 10th Infantry Division in Eastern Mindanao which covers parts of Davao (Region 11) and SOCCSKSARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos City or Region 12). He also led the EASTMINCOM as its commander where he secured Northern Mindanao (Region 10), parts of Davao Region, SOCCSKSARGEN, and Caraga (Region 13).