Rody mulls Cabinet post for ex-AFP chief Cimatu

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Apparently impressed by the discipline of military officers on the job, President Duterte is mulling the appointment of retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Roy Cimatu to a Cabinet post.

Cimatu is currently the Philippines’ special envoy to the Middle East, where the President recently concluded a six-day trip to push for investments and take care of issues hounding over one million overseas Filipino workers.

Duterte, however, did not mention the vacancy Cimatu might fill up. 

In a speech before the Filipino community in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Duterte said “another Ilocano” will join his Cabinet “one of these days,” hinting that he was the one sent by the government during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when there were mass evacuations from the Middle East.

Duterte then named Cimatu as the person he was referring to.

The Chief Executive also gave the former military general a pat on the back for doing his job well as special envoy to the Middle East.

In his arrival speech at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport yesterday, Duterte also noted Cimatu’s role in enhancing relations with countries in the Middle East, which he described as “a region of great importance to our country.”

“It is the home of the largest number of Filipino workers overseas. It is our partner for our conventional energy needs. It is an emerging source of broader two-way trade and investments,” Duterte said. 

As a sign of gratitude, Duterte said he has committed to help some Middle Eastern countries in case they need the Philippine government’s help.

“More than just anything else, I stressed... that should the need arise, we will be there to help them,” Duterte said.

Military training, not ME deployment

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. also clarified Duterte’s statement before a group of businessmen in Qatar that he would be ready to send Filipino soldiers to show the country’s gratitude for their kindness to Filipinos working in the region.

Speaking on the sidelines of the visit, Esperon said the Chief Executive was referring to the training for Filipino military personnel in the Middle East.

Duterte said in various meetings in Bahrain and Qatar that he would deploy Filipino soldiers if requested by counterparts.

“This will probably take another six months to one year. This will be very selective and it will be probably based on specialized courses or training,” Esperon said, adding that a memorandum of understanding would be crafted as a result of the President’s talks with the respective leaders.

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