Centino sets sight on ending communist insurgency before Duterte’s exit

Lt. Gen. Andres Centino, the newly installed Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), has issued his very first directive to the 150,000-strong military and that is to finish off the communist insurgency before President Duterte steps down from office in June 2022.

Lt. Gen. Andres Centino assumes as the 57th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Nov. 12, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

“Our Commander-in-Chief has entrusted to us a crucial responsibility — to end the local armed conflict before the end of his Presidential term on 30 June 2022. Let us all be mindful to accomplish this task before the set deadline,” Centino said during the Change of Command ceremony on Friday, Nov. 12.

“We have gained much in our operational campaign to address the threat groups. Thus, we must unleash our full force for the final blow that will ultimately destroy and defeat the enemies of the state,” he emphasized.

Centino took the helm of the military leadership after the mandatory retirement of Gen. Jose Faustino Jr. Both generals are “mistahs” or batchmates at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Maringal” Class of 1988.

Centino became the AFP’s 57th AFP Chief and the 11th under the Duterte administration. His appointment was announced on the day of his assumption.

Duterte previously ordered the military to put an end to the country’s more than five-decade-old problem on insurgency with the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) before his term ends in 2022.

Centino, formerly the Philippine Army Commanding General, said the military is on the verge of achieving this task through the help of the national government, local government units (LGUs), and other stakeholders.

“Coupled with the all-out support of the government and trust of the Filipino people, our convergence will bring a definite end to the communist insurgency,” said Centino, who could be the last AFP Chief to serve under the present administration. He will retire in February 2023.

“To the remaining insurgents and terrorist groups in the country, let me emphasize that the national government is sincere and open to those who still want to return to the folds of the law. If you insist, the full wrath of the AFP will hit you hard to the brink of your extinction in the face of our society,” he added.

He also mentioned the need to continuously protect and assert the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, the military’s sustained support to the government’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic response, and securing the upcoming 2022 national and local elections.