‘Normal’ security situation at Camp Aguinaldo as rumor of mass resignation circulates

Hours after Gen. Andres Centino assumed post as the 59th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Saturday, Jan. 7, a rumor about the resignation of “all” officials of the Department of National Defense (DND) quickly spread like wildfire, triggering security concerns at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Camp Aguinaldo (File: RTVM screenshot)

But Col. Jorry Baclor, chief of AFP public information office, allayed public fears of destabilization as he assured the security situation at Camp Aguinaldo remained “normal.”

“I have just gotten out of Camp Aguinaldo about 20 minutes ago and it’s normal,” Baclor told the Manila Bulletin in a message at 4:25 p.m.

AFP officials have attended a brief conference with Centino on Saturday afternoon after the latter was reappointed as the AFP Chief of Staff. Centino, who first served as the top AFP official from Nov. 2021 to August 2022, was reappointed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., replacing Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro who only served for nearly five months.

Col. Medel Aguilar, AFP spokesperson, also denied that there was a destabilization within the military organization: “Negative,” he stated. "Everything is normal."

The resignation rumors stemmed from a photo of a memorandum order, supposedly from the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Caraga (Region 13), which stated that the entire police organization was placed on full alert status “in view of the resignation of all Department of National Defense (DND) personnel in Camp Aguinaldo.”

Camp Aguinaldo is situated adjacent to the PNP National Headquarters (NHQ) at Camp Crame. It also houses the DND Building.

“In this regard, all units are hereby upgraded to FULL ALERT STATUS effective today, January, 7, 2023 at 1:00 p.m.,” the supposed memo read.

Further, the memo required to have a “100 percent attendance of personnel,” “monitor movements of AFP troops,” and “conduct simulation exercise on Camp Defense Plan and Communication Exercise (COMMEX) on communication networks.”

It also ordered commanders to submit an hourly update on the situation in their camps beginning 1 p.m. of Jan. 7.

As of this writing, the DND has yet to issue a statement regarding the matter.

In a separate message, an official of the PNP confirmed that the police organization was placed under a heightened alert status but due to the Feast of the Black Nazarene which will be held from Jan. 7 to 9, and not because of the alleged resignation of DND officials.

“As far as I know, the PNP NHQ has not released a memo about that,” said Col. Redrico Maranan, chief of PNP public information office.

Full support

Meanwhile, Aguilar said the entire AFP welcomes the designation of Centino as the 59th AFP Chief amid the circulating rumors.

"As a professional organization, the AFP supports the decision of the Commander in Chief, His Excellency Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. The AFP will continue in its mission to defeat all armed threat groups for the security and safety of our people, for the defense of our territorial integrity and national sovereignty," Aguilar said.

This was echoed by the Philippine Army (PA).

"The Philippine Army is confident that Gen. Centino, who earlier led the AFP from Nov. 2021 to August 2022, will fully support the Philippine Army in attaining its vision of becoming a world-class land force that is a source of national pride by 2028. The organization is assured on its strides in its modernization thrusts," Col. Xerxes Trinidad, Army spokesperson, said.

Prior to becoming the AFP chief, Centino also headed the PA as its commanding general in 2021.