In the news, seven generals are shortlisted for the post of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief. They are selected from 13 generals of the AFP.

“The next AFP Chief of Staff is expected to continue the programs and the operational thrusts of the current leadership, especially pursuing the guidance of President Duterte to finish insurgency within his term,” AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said.

The first three stars generals are Philippine Army (PA) chief Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, Philippine Air Force (PAF) Chief Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez and Philippine Navy chief Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad.

The other generals are Philippine Military Academy (PMA) superintendent Lt. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista, AFP chief of the directorial staff Lt. Gen. Erickson Gloria, AFP vice chief of staff Vice Adm. Gaudencio Collado Jr., AFP inspector general Lt. Gen. Antonio Ramon Lim, Northern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Ramiro Rey, Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, Western Command chief Vice Adm. Rene Medina, Central Command chief Lt. Gen. Noel Clement, Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr and Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana.

Chief of Staff of the AFP (CSAFP) Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. will retire on September 28, 2019, but the ceremony of the change of command will be held on September 24.

Arevalo said that the CSAFP is the one who has “proven competence, integrity, and managerial and leadership acumen.”

Surely, Duterte will choose his most loyal CSAFP to secure him in time of unrest and mass protest that will surely be brought about by worsening economic situation of the people as their rights and welfare are abandoned in the interests of foreign powers and the powerful few in the country.

Most likely, the most loyal general who can become the next CSAFP is Gen. Macairog Alberto.

PA Chief Macairog S. Alberto file photo

Before Alberto became the Chief of the PA, he was the chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP). Alberto is a member of the PMA Class of 1986. He was the commander of Task Force Davao from June 2014 to August 2015, at the time that Duterte was still mayor of Davao City.

Alberto is a Scout Ranger officer. He was trained in “counter terrorism and intelligence” operations. He finished his Counterterrorism Fellowship Program in the US, and Public Management Major in Development and Security at the Development Academy of the Philippines.

He started as Platoon Leader and then a Company Commander at the 2nd Infantry Division (ID) of the Philippine Army. As Lieutenant Colonel, joined the 1st Scout Ranger Regiment and Battalion Commander of the 2nd and 3rd Scout Ranger Battalions. He served as an Intelligence Officer for the Philippine Contingent in East Timor.

In 2014, he became the 9th Commander of Task Force Davao in June 2014, and became Brigade Commander of the 1001 Infantry Brigade (IB), of the 10th ID of the PA. The 10th ID is responsible of the militarization in Southern Mindanao Region.

He was adorned with “Distinguished Conduct Star, Gold Cross Medal, Bronze Cross Medal, military merit medals for combat and other non-combat medals.”

An Army general is important in implementing the Duterte regime’s “counterinsurgency” program, that insofar as the Commander-in-Chief’s human rights records go, have sacrificed many lives in the name of peace and order and development.

Other contenders are PAF chief Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez and Navy chief Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad. These two generals, though involved in “counterinsurgency” and “counter-terrorism”, may be outperformed by Alberto’s résumé in Duterte’s push to end the communist insurgency in his time.

PAF Chief Rozzano D. Briguez file photo

Lt. General Rozzano Briguez could supposedly assume as PAF’s new commanding general in 2020, the retirement year of PAF Lt. Gen. Galileo Kintanar. But Duterte appointed Briguez on December 5, 2018 and took effect on that day.

AFP public affairs head Colonel Noel Detoyato said the change was “for the professional growth of the whole organization.”

Briguez, was described by Detoyato as a “highly-regarded officer and one of the intellectuals” of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986.

Before becoming as PAF chief, Briguez was chief of the Western Command based in Palawan, “the unit responsible for protecting the country’s territories in the West Philippine Sea.”

His profile says he took the Aviation Officer Advance Course at the US Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Alabama.  He has a degree on Strategic Security Studies in the Air University of the US Air Force and a Master’s Degree in Public Management in the University of New South Wales.

Philippine Navy Flag OIC Robert Empedrad file photo

Navy chief Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad was designated as head of the Philippine Navy in December 2017 by Duterte.

Empedrad assumed as Navy chief during the controversy on “weapons system for the country’s first two missile frigates.”

Empedrad had chaired the Navy’s Frigate Project Management Team. Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) in early 2016 had signed a contract with Navy’s Frigate Project. This project became controversial when the then-Special Assistant to the President now senator Christopher “Bong” Go was accused of interfering in the project. Go was cleared by Duterte.

Empedrad is known for his anti-communist campaign. During the turnover of the Navy’s newly-acquired vessel BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), a warship donated by the South Korean government, Empedrad said: “Total control of maritime waters in Mindanao will destroy the ability of the insurgents and even the terrorists from using the sea to consolidate their forces and transport their weapons and logistics in war. In war, disrupting the logistics or supply lines is vital in defeating the enemy.”

He earned his Master in Business Administration degree at the Philippine Christian University in Dasmariñas, Cavite.  He also took the US Naval Staff Course at US Naval War College, in Newport, Rhode Island. He took the Senior Executive Course for National University and Senior Strategic Leadership Programme at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.

These possible runners-up to the CSAFP post are competent, but Duterte will need an army as tested in implementing a martial law in Mindanao and de facto martial law nationwide. The PA has promised to protect its commander-in-chief in the time of “people’s uprising.”

Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala “demanding soldiers’ loyalty to the president” came out in the news on July 10, 2019.

In a televised interview last July 10, Zagala said “soldiers must remain loyal to President Rodrigo Duterte following the chain of command.”

“Your Armed Forces is professional and our loyalty will remain towards the chain of command. He (Duterte) being the commander-in-chief, our loyalty is towards him,” he said.

Zagala called on soldiers to “resign” who are not loyal to the President so that they can talk what they want.

Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto was mum about Zagala’s speech on soldiers loyalty to the president. It is assumed that the mindset of his spokesperson is the mindset of the Army chief.

The Philippine Constitution mandates soldiers’ allegiance to the fundamental law of the country.

Article XVI Section 5 states that the functions of the armed forces include the following:

“All members of the armed forces shall take an oath or affirmation to uphold and defend this Constitution.

“The armed forces shall be insulated from partisan politics. No member of the military shall engage directly or indirectly in any partisan political activity, except to vote.”

Executive Order 2 Series of 1943 “requires all government officials and members of the armed forces to take an oath of loyalty under the Constitution which they are mandated to uphold, protect and defend while serving the people.”

AFP spokesperson Arevalo assured the public that the AFP is loyal to the Constitution. They should be.

But this may be the official statement for now. When the AFP Chief of Staff is assumed by one of the generals, especially Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, it may be another story, or that one that Zagala talked about.

The commonality of the three frontrunners for CSAFP are that they have all been involved in the Moro conflict in Mindanao and the nationwide civil war waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army. The three are also US-trained.

Whoever Duterte will choose, he will ensure that the CSAFP is loyal to him.

More loyal to him, perhaps, than they are to the US? Hopefully, for Duterte’s own good. The AFP has deep ties with the US, even with some—including Empedrad—echoing pro-China sentiments but are called by some military historians as military careerists.

As for the other 10 generals, they will have their “own time” in service and maybe under another Commander-in-Chief lest they also prove most loyal to the current one.

 

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