Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will be submitting five names of senior military generals to President Duterte for his choice to succeed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero.
Guerrero is supposed to complete his three-month extension of duty on April 24.
It will be recalled that Guerrero reached the mandatory retirement age of 56 last December –barely two months after assuming the AFP top post in October, but was extended by Duterte.
Lorenzana said that the AFP-Board of Generals (BoG) will prepare the shortlist, composed of five names, which he will submit to the President for his pick.
The defense chief stressed that all three-star generals of the AFP are qualified to succeed Guerrero, who is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1984.
“All of the three-star generals are all qualified. I know them all and I am sure whoever will be chosen will do a good job,” said Lorenzana.
However, Camp Aguinaldo sources said that the race to the AFP top post is down to three officials, namely, Army chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista; Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, and Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) head Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr.
Bautista, Madrigal and Galvez are mistahs from the PMA “Sandiwa” Class of 1985.
Among the three, sources said that Bautista is most likely to be appointed vice Guerrero.
“General Bautista enjoys the trust and confidence of the President having served as PSG (Presidential Security Group) commander. He also performed well during the Marawi City siege,” one of the source said.
During the siege, Bautista was the commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division (ID) which has jurisdiction over Marawi City.
It will be recalled that more than 900 Islamic State-inspired terrorists, led by Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and the dreaded Maute brothers, were killed during all-out military operations in Marawi City.
The military liberated Marawi City only after five months.