Game of the generals?

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

President Bongbong Marcos reappointed Gen. Andres Centino as chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the  Philippines (AFP).

This places Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro in a highly embarrassing situation.

This is the first time in the history of the AFP that a former chief of staff replaced the general who replaced him.

The President appointed Bacarro AFP chief, replacing Centino, in August 2022.
Why did Junior oust Bacarro, whom he appointed as Centino’s replacement, and re-install the latter? Read on to find out.
It seems Junior still has to master the skills his father, Ferdinand Sr., had for decisive leadership.

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Centino’s reappointment as AFP chief set off rumors of demoralization among the AFP’s officer corps and rank-and-file soldiers.
A very reliable source said Gen. Rodolfo Azurin, Philippine National Police chief, ordered all PNP units on red alert following the reported mass resignation of

Defense Secretary Jose Faustino Jr., other defense personnel and military officers.

“Require 100 percent presence (of all PNP personnel) and monitor movements of AFP troops and prepare DMR (digital mobile radio) and tactical radio communication network... con-duct simex (simulation exercises) on CP defense plan in communications network,” Azurin’s orders to his men supposedly read.

Another order from Azurin was for the PNP’s elite unit, the Special Action Force (SAF), to be on “war” footing due to AFP troop movements.

But what did all that mean? Well, a repeat of the 1989 mutiny may happen. That was when rebel troops nearly toppled president Cory Aquino’s government by a hair’s breadth.

The timely interference of the US Air Force F-4 (Phantom) jets based in Clark Air Base, which buzzed antiquated Philippine Air Force jets about to bomb Malacañang, saved the day.

Here was how the order from the PNP high command in Camp Crame read:

“All SAF units are to stay in FULL ALERT due to destabilization movements from the AFP.

“In this regard, all Battalion Commanders are directed to hold all leaves and passes for the meantime and conduct regular accounting to your respective personnel.

“Further, let’s ensure the operational readiness of our personnel and equipment (move/shoot/communicate) particularly in dealing with the said situation when the need arises, and be ready to move upon the orders of proper authorities.”

Let’s pray a shooting war doesn’t erupt between the PNP and the AFP.
Should that happen – heaven forbid – the PNP will be clobbered.

Only the SAF, the PNP’s commando group, would be able to stand up to the AFP. But the SAF is a small unit compared to the entire AFP, and its members wouldn’t obey their officers, undisciplined as most of them are.

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How serious is the present situation?

As it is, neither President Junior nor Defense Secretary Jose Faustino, a retired Army general, attended the unconventional change of command from Bartolome Bacarro to Andres Cen-tino.

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Centino. He was set to retire on Feb. 4, 2023.

But President Junior cut short Centino’s stint by replacing him with Bacarro, who would have been the first beneficiary of a new law (Republic Act 11709) president

Duterte signed, which provides a three-year term for the AFP chief of staff.

The reinstatement of Centino as AFP chief of staff, which was never done before, was apparently meant to correct an egregious blunder on the part of President BBM. Before this, Cen-tino had a pending nomination to become the Philippine Ambassador to India and Nepal.

This caused demoralization among the troops. Bacarro is a highly respected officer because he is a Medal of Valor awardee.
The Medal of Valor is the highest award the AFP can give a military man. It is the equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor of the United States Armed Forces.

There have been only 41 Medal of Valor recipients since 1935. Seventeen of them are still alive, among them Bacarro.

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Whatever the public says about the acquittal of the son of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, the fact is that the prosecution bungled the case for the government.

Agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), who came to arrest Juanito Jose Remulla III at his residence in Las Piñas, told the court that Juanito

Jose Remulla III was not expecting the delivery of the parcel that contained the supposed prohibited drug (kush, a form of high-grade marijuana).

One of the agents, PDEA intelligence agent Eduardo Bongao Jr., who posed as a postman, said in court that Remulla told him, “I’m not expecting a parcel delivery.”

Asked if he knew the package sender, a certain Benjamin Huffman, Remulla replied, “I don’t know who that is, but if it’s under my name, I’ll take it.”

Judge Ricardo Moldez III had to hand in the acquittal verdict based on what the PDEA agents told his court.

“The testimony of Agent Bongao, in particular, only served to establish that the accused had no knowledge and awareness that the drug he was about to receive contains (sic) illegal drugs,” Moldez said.

Trial lawyer Felisberto Verano Jr., who got the “Alabang Boys” acquitted in court in 2011 after PDEA agents screwed up their testimony, said that the anti-narcotics agents committed a grave procedural error when they went to Remulla’s house instead of waiting for him to claim the parcel at the post office.

People who are howling in protest about the young Remulla’s acquittal should blame the PDEA for testifying as defense – instead of prosecution – witnesses.

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