Defense chief submits 5 names for AFP CS post

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.

3 eyed for top Armed Forces of the Philippines post

MANILA, Philippines — Three military officers are being eyed to replace Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Rey Guerrero, who will take over as administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) on April 24, an official said yesterday.

The contenders for the AFP post are Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. of the Eastern Mindanao Command, Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. of the Western Mindanao Command and Army chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Guerrero was supposed to retire last December, but President Duterte extended his term for three months.

Guerrero will replace Marcial Amaro III as Marina chief. Amaro was sacked by Duterte over his numerous trips abroad.

Meanwhile, Lorenzana rejected a proposed bill in Congress seeking to make the Philippine Marine Corps an independent service command under the AFP.

The measure seeks to detach the Marines from the jurisdiction of the Navy.

Loose guns seized in Lanao del Sur

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines — At least 11 high-powered firearms were confiscated by the Joint Task Force Ranao and Task Force Haribon in Lanao del Sur the other day, an official said yesterday.

Brig. Gen. Roseller Murillo, First Tabak Division commander, said the guns were recovered in Pualas and Lumbatan towns as well as in Marawi.

Murillo said among those seized were rifles, a grenade launcher and various types of ammunition.

At least 43  high powered guns were recovered also in Pualas last Monday.

AFP accepting more scholars

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is accepting more dependents of soldiers as scholars after its beneficiaries rose to 4,129 as of February 2018.

The number is expected to increase in the following months as the military continues its scholarship generation activities nationwide spearheaded by the AFP Educational Benefit System Office (AFPEBSO).

The AFPEBSO reported that 769 beneficiaries are in the National Capital Region; 1,408 in Luzon; 499 in Visayas; and 1,453 in Mindanao.

All are benefitting from scholarships consisting of law mandated programs and those by virtue of partnerships with educational, government, socio-civic and financial institutions.

Among the benefits being received by current grantees are free tuition and miscellaneous fees, monthly stipend up to P20,000 per year, food and transportation allowance.

The AFP said it now has over 290 scholarship partners as of February 2018 that include around 280 academic institutions and foundations that have entered into a memorandum of agreement with the AFP.

The AFPEBSO has been managing educational programs to qualified dependents since its activation in 2000.

It caters mostly to the disadvantaged orphans whose parents have died or were incapacitated in combat.

Other beneficiaries are dependents of non-battle casualties, active and retired soldiers, and Civilian Employees of the AFP.

Duterte wants 75 as retirement age for armed services

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte wants to raise the retirement age of uniformed personnel to 75 from 56, saying the government would be shortchanged if security officials are allowed to leave the service early.

Duterte said the retirement age of 56 is “too early,” considering that Filipinos are spending so much for soldiers and policemen.

“Alam mo ’adre, sa totoo lang, lugi ang gobyerno sa inyo (You know buddy, the government is shortchanged). You retire at the age of 56, that’s too early,” the President said at the graduation of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) “Maragtas” class of 2018 yesterday in Cavite.

“Do not be offended. Filipinos are spending much for you, yet you retire at the age of 56. Hindi ako makabawi (I cannot recover the expenses),” he added.

Duterte urged Vice President Leni Robredo, who was also present during the graduation ceremony, to support a measure raising the retirement age of the armed services.

“Perhaps in the next legislation, we will ask the Vice President to do her part… Retirement age is 75,” he added.

Duterte also cited the need to enlist more policemen to address the Philippines’ security requirements. He expressed hope that more Muslims would join the country’s security forces.

“I hope by the next batch or the next – the one coming up for this generation, I will have the money to give you to enlist more police officers,” he said.

“Not all the Moro of Mindanao are our enemies. So maybe next time there should be a percentage of the Moro people joining PMA (Philippine Military Academy) or the PNPA. We need them,” he said.

At the same event, Duterte advised PNPA graduates to be vigilant against the Sparrow unit or the assassins of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“Be on alert for the sparrows because they are very active. If you have guns, do not display it, and be sure to keep a low profile. And if you enter an unfamiliar place, keep a sub rosa (private) style of movement,” the President said.

“We are at war. Now, the NPA is really after your guns… Those fools are drooling for your guns,” he added.

Duterte reminded the incoming police officers to have presence of mind and to study the ways NPA members assassinate their victims.

“I am not condemning you to death, I am just saying keep a low profile, heighten your sense of awareness,” the President said.

Duterte also claimed that about 1,000 soldiers and policemen have died because of the campaign against illegal drugs in Mindanao.

He also urged the PNPA graduates to perform their duties in accordance with the law.

This was the third time Duterte and Robredo shared the same stage in less than a week.

“Vice President Maria Leonor ‘Leni’ Robredo, this is the third time that I have greeted you, my lady,” the President said. Robredo smiled, sparking cheers from the audience.

The country’s top officials attended the graduation rites at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City on Sunday and the 121st founding anniversary celebration of the Philippine Army in Taguig City on Tuesday.

Robredo said she had a chance to talk with the top 20 of the 106-strong Maragtas Class before the commencement exercises. One of the graduates, meanwhile, gifted Robredo with a portrait of herself.

Robredo shared on Twitter photos of the artwork by Cadet Fourth Class Don Carlo Labastida, who hails from Davao City. The painting featured the Vice President’s face and the seal of her office.

“Was gifted with this beautiful painting by the PNPA Council of Artists. In the pictures with me is the artist behind this masterpiece, Cadet 4CL Don Carlo Labastida of Davao City,” Robredo said.

Labastida is a self-taught painter who belongs to the PNPA Council of Artists, the Office of the Vice President said.

Yesterday’s rites took on a new meaning for one of the female graduates after her policeman boyfriend surprised her with a marriage proposal.

Inspector May Ann Bejuna, 25, was with her relatives on the parade grounds when her boyfriend of three years, Inspector Thomas Allabo, 26, of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF), approached her with a bouquet of flowers.

Allabo, a member of the PNPA Lakandula Class of 2015, was accompanied by his classmates carrying heart-shaped balloons.

AFP on alert for NPA anniversary

REUNION AT FORT BONIFACIO President Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo meet again at ceremonies marking the 121st founding anniversary of the Philippine Army, which continued to be in the front line of the war on communist rebels. —JOAN BONDOC

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will not let its guard down as the 49th founding anniversary of New People’s Army (NPA) draws near.

Rebels traditionally launch attacks on government targets to celebrate the founding, on March 29, of the NPA, the armed wing of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“Our forces will continue to be on a proactive stance,” said Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin Jr., AFP sokesperson, in a statement.



Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana again called on communist rebels to lay down their arms after nearly 50 years of fighting.

Lorenzana said the NPA’s “cause has become irrelevant.”

“Do not be the spoilers of peace, progress and development,” said the defense chief, addressing himself to rebels.

He said if the rebels failed to win in 49 years of armed struggle, “what makes you think you could salvage victory in the next 50?”

“Let us join hands to build a better Philippines,” said Lorenzana.

Peace talks between the Duterte administration and National Democratic Front of the Philippines collapsed after President Duterte raged at the continued attack by NPA on government soldiers.

Duterte’s dream

NPA accused the military, on the other hand, of continued operations against rebels.

Upon his election into office in May 2016, Mr. Duterte vowed to work closely with the CPP to achieve peace.

He appointed members of leftist organizations to Cabinet positions and freed several political detainees as a gesture of goodwill.

Military intensifies moves against NPA anniv attacks

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has intensified security operations throughout the country to thwart any attempt by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) to conduct atrocities marking its founding anniversary on March 29.

Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin Jr., AFP spokesman, cited previous atrocities launched by the NPA against government troops and even innocent civilians.
“The AFP is intensifying efforts to thwart possible attacks and atrocities by the NPA in line with their upcoming anniversary. The occasion is usually marked by their attacks against our people and vulnerable communities,” Datuin said.
In the past, Datuin noted that the NPAs have staged hostilities such as raids, ambuscades and sabotage against government troops, on public establishments and vital installations that severely affected innocent civilians.
“These attacks against our people are terroristic in nature and clear reflection of their true color as a criminal and terrorist organization,” Datuin said.
The AFP spokesman also blamed the communist for causing so much disturbances in the National Capital Region (NCR) by staging protest rallies.
“In the NCR they have staged rallies and protest actions that caused massive traffic that affected motorists and commuters. They have repeatedly done such actions that disturbed the peace of the place and pestered law-abiding citizens,” he said.
While there are no identified NPA members participating in anti-government rallies in Metro Manila, rallyists mostly belong to militant groups allied with the Left such as Bayan Muna, Bayan, Karapatan, Piston, among others.
Datuin did not particularly identify those he blamed for the disturbances.
The AFP spokesman stressed that the 125,000-strong military will remain steadfast in protecting peace-loving people against NPA atrocities anywhere in the country, as he urged the public to closely coordinate with government authorities.

Coast Guard gets 8th multi-role vessel

MANILA, Philippines — Expect the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to take advantage of good weather to conduct frequent sea and air monitoring patrol in three areas where the country’s security is being tested.

The PCG last March 16 received its eighth multi-role response vessel, to be called BRP Cabra, which PCG spokesman Capt. Armand Balilo said would most likely be used to augment vessels patrolling the West Philippine Sea and Philippine Rise.

Balilo added that the PCG would be sending more frequent aerial patrols in the West Philippine Sea and at Bajo de Masinloc in Zambales.

“With the good weather prevailing upon us, we could conduct longer patrols in these three areas and would get better information of the situation there,” said Balilo.

As of now, the PCG only has BRP Suluan that is conducting sea patrol at the Philippine Rise, but by next month the maritime agency might deploy a second ship to cover more ground and increase their presence in the area.

Balilo said the PCG has increased the frequency of aerial monitoring over the West Philippine Sea and Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough or Panatag Shoal).

“So far there are no threats. We are also checking in on our fishermen and checking if there are any developments or new structures,” said Balilo.

China is one of the countries that has staked a claim over parts of the West Philippine Sea. It has built military structures on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, which is part of the Spratly Islands of West Philippine Sea.

China has also claimed that Bajo de Masinloc is within its nine-dash line territory.

Earlier, a Chinese vessel entered the Philippine Rise, supposedly to conduct research in the area that is rich in marine resources.

Thai cadet taking PMA training back home

BATTLE READY The 281 members of the Philippine Military Academy’s “Alab Tala” Class of 2018 are the newest officers who will take on leadership positions in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. RICHARD BALONGLONG

FORT DEL PILAR, BAGUIO CITY—A Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadet drew applause from his classmates during last Sunday’s academy graduation here, precisely because he wasn’t from this country.

The 23-year-old Pongpeera Disapirom from Bangkok, Thailand, received his diploma from President Rodrigo Duterte, along with 281 graduates of PMA “Alab Tala” Class of 2018.

Fluent in Filipino

Ranked 254th in the class, Disapirom became the sixth Thai to pass the academy’s rigorous academic and military training.

He joined the academy in 2014, and had become fairly fluent in Filipino.

“I will use what I have learned in the academy to help resolve problems in my country. It was an honor to be part of the military exchange program,” he told reporters here.

THAI SMILE Pongpeera Disapirom (third from left), a native of Bangkok, Thailand, takes a selfie with his “mistah” (classmates) before their graduation at PMA. PMA PHOTO

The program allowed foreign students like Disapirom to study in PMA and Filipino cadets to enroll in military schools abroad.


Disapirom, who will serve as a junior officer in the Royal Thai Army, was popular among his “mistah” (classmates) because of his communication skills in Filipino, said Lt. Col. Reynaldo Balido, chief of the PMA public affairs office.

A Thai, Thaval Sawangpunka of Class 1960, was the first foreign cadet to graduate from PMA.

In 1978, Ho Sun Yee, a Singaporean, topped his class and received the presidential saber.

His class also had the most number of foreign cadets, although only Ho completed training.

Thai cadet taking PMA training back home