MANILA – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte witnessed the turnover of change of command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Thursday, reiterating his promise to give outgoing chief of staff Eduardo M. Año the Interior and Local government portfolio next year.
In a speech at the turnover, Duterte credited Año with having steered the millitary through some of its toughest chapters, including its five-month engagement in Marawi where homegrown terrorists inspired by the Islamic State laid siege to the city, forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate.
At the change of command rites in Camp Aguinaldo, Duterte also noted Año’s presiding over a substantial segment of the AFP’s continuing modernization.
Duterte named Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero as successor of Año.
Farmers hit Año promotion
Meanwhile, farmers expressed dismay with Duterte’s plan to put Año at DILG. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said in a statement Año is accountable for the alleged killings of farmers and militarization of peasant communities. Año, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 56, addressed the AFP soldiers and incoming AFP Chief Guerrero and said he is proud of what he has achieved in the AFP.
After his retirement, Año will be in the cabinet as DILG secretary. However, said secretary general Antonio Flores, Año’s military career and service is “tainted with the blood of Filipinos who are victims of state-sponsored terror and violence.”
The peasant leader also hit the continuing militarization of the civilian bureaucracy. More than 50 former military officials and personnel are serving in strategic government positions. “Ex-military personnel and officials are actually calling the shots in the Duterte administration and with Año permanently in DILG, the Philippine National Police (PNP) will serve as a paramilitary force of the AFP.”
Farmers are demanding an end to the alleged militarization of peasant communities, KMP said, noting this pattern in parts of Sorsogon and Masbate, and in Eastern Visayas.
‘Guerrero ML implementor in Mindanao’
Incoming AFP Chief of Staff Guerrero is the current commanding officer of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) and the chief implementor of Martial Law in Mindanao, noted KMP.
“Guerrero’s appointment is a reward from Duterte for maintaining an iron-hand rule in Mindanao,” said KMP, adding that EastMin Com units include 4th ID, 22nd ID, 10th ID, Naval Forces, 6th ID, 52nd Engineer Brigade, 52nd Engineer Brigade, Tactical Operations Groups 10 & 11, 5th Civil Relations Group, Military Intelligence Groups 11 and 16, ISAFP; 10th, 11th, 12th, 15th Regional Community Defense Groups, PA; 5th and 7th Air Reserve Center, PAF and Naval Reserve Center Eastern Mindanao, Phil Navy.