MANILA, Philippines – Two senior military officers belonging to a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class identified with former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were relieved of their posts and reassigned Friday in the third revamp undertaken by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the 45 days since President Benigno Aquino III took office.
Rear Admiral Feliciano Angue has been taken out as chief of the National Capital Regional Command (NCRCom) and named commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao based in Zamboanga City. He will be replaced as commander of troops in Metro Manila by Major General Arthur Tabanquero.
Major General Juancho Sabban, on the other hand, will be shipped out to Palawan to head the Western Command (Wescom) in Puerto Princesa City and will be replaced as commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps by Brigadier General Rustico Guerrero.
Angue and Sabban, as as Tabanquero, belong to PMA Class 1978, which adopted Arroyo as honorary member.
One of their “mistahs” or classmates, retired general Delfin Bangit, was named AFP chief of staff by Arroyo, now representative of Pampanga’s second district, just before she stepped down from the presidency. However, Bangit opted for early retirement after Aquino declared, before his inauguration, that he would not be keeping the general at the head of the military.
Before his reassignment, Angue found himself on the spot after exposing an alleged attempt to bribe him and the officers he commanded to help rig the results of the 2004 elections, which Arroyo won in circumstances that remain questioned, and the May 10 polls. He also criticized the alleged patronage system that controls the promotions and assignments of military officers.
The latest revamp came two days after a “white paper” was circulated in Camp Aguinaldo, military general headquarters, accusing Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, himself a former general, of influencing the promotion and assignment process within the AFP.
“From a systems-oriented era of having civilians at the helm of the Defense Department, we now have a retired military officer whose concept of defense is antiquated as he is and who only looks after the welfare of men who once served under him,” the white paper, purportedly authored by “concerned military officers,” said.
But the AFP Public Information Office, in a statement, said the revamp was implemented after Aquino approved the new tranche of assignments for senior officers.
“Further changes in the military hierarchy have been approved following the previous tranches of orders issued by the Malacañang, designating the new assignments of some senior military officers,” the AFP statement said. “This after the Board of Generals has submitted to President Aquino through the Honorable Defense Secretary Gazmin their recommendation for the following appointments last July 26.”
Two days after assuming office on June 30, Aquino installed Lieutenant General Ricardo David (PMA 77) as AFP chief, replacing Lieutenant General Nestor Ochoa, who was chosen acting chief by the Board of Generals following Gazmin’s retirement.
David once served under Gazmin, who headed the Presidential Security Guard (PSG) during the term of the late former president Corazon C. Aquino, the incumbent’s mother.
In mid-June, another revamp happened when Lieutenant General Reynaldo Mapagu (MA 78) was relieved as Army chief and named AFP vice chief of staff. Although technically a promotion, many officers see the post as a “freezer.”
Mapagu was replaced as Army chief by Major General Arturo Ortiz (PMA Class 79), a Medal of Valor recipient and former commander of the Army’s Special Operations Command (Socom).
Friday’s AFP revamp also saw the movement of other senior military officers, with Major General Artemio Orozco, formerly of the Air Force’s 1st Air Division, named the new AFP deputy chief of staff.
Rear Admiral Mario Catacutan, AFP deputy chief of staff for Logistics, is now the new AFP Inspector General, replacing Major General Jovencio Magalso, who was named deputy chief of staff for Reservist and Retiree Affairs.
Catacutan will be replaced by Commodore Teddy Pan, outgoing chief of the Western Command. While, Rear Admiral Roberto Estioko has been raised from acting to full-time vice commander of the Philippine Navy Vice Commander.
Commodore Edgar Abogado, commander of the Naval Logistics Center, has been named chief of Naval Forces Northern Luzon, while Commodore Jose Luis Alano, commander of the Service Force of the Philippine Fleet, is the new chief of Naval Staff.
Army Colonel Benito Antonio T De Leon, previously Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of National Defense, now heads the AFP Command Center and Major General Mario Chan of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division Army’s will now head the 8th Infantry Division and be replaced by Major General Victor Felix, deputy chief of staff for Civil Military Operations.
Felix will be replaced by Brigadier General Nonato Alfredo Peralta Jr., commandant of the PMA Cadet Corps, a position to be be taken over by Colonel Maximo Caro, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade
Brigadier General Carlos Luces will be promoted from deputy commander to commander of the Army’s Light Armor Division based in Capas, Tarlac.
At the Philippine Air Force, Brigadier General Pedro E Rieza Jr., the 355thAir Engineering Wing commander, has been named commander of the Air Logistics Command.
Major General Jesus Fajardo will command the 2nd Air Division while Brigadier General Virgilio Domingo will command the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing.
David emphasized that the promoted and reassigned officers were nominated by the Board of Senior Officers of the major services to the AFP Board of Generals, which then submitted their names to the Office of the President through the Secretary of National Defense.
“That ensures that the officer who is most appropriate and fit for a position will be designated to it, and will are all natural processes of growth and evolution of the military organization, just like any other organization,” David said.
“Everyone who qualifies is being considered for these positions that have to be filled in. Who will assume these critical positions in the military hierarchy will be extremely significant for the achievement of goals of the AFP as a military institution,” David said. (Dateline Philippines - Anthony Vargas)