Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Cirilito Sobejana on Sunday said Lieutenant General Jose Faustino Jr. was replaced as acting commanding general of the Philippine Army to follow the rule of law.
"The relief of LTGEN FAUSTINO is in accordance with the Law particularly RA 8186 section 4 wherein the CGPA should have at least one year remaining in the service on the day of his assumption," Sobejana told reporters.
Asked about past instances when some acting Army commanding generals were also appointed with less than one year remaining before retirement, Sobejana said: "the rule of law applies."
The AFP chief said Faustino will take on the post of special assistant to the chief of staff on peace and development.
Faustino previously headed the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) in Davao City. He is due to retire by November of this year.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday night confirmed the appointment of Major General Andres Centino as Philippine Army chief, replacing Faustino.
Centino was commander of the 4th Infantry Division, which is based in Cagayan de Oro City.
The AFP issued a statement later on Sunday saying it welcomes Centino's appointment.
"The General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines welcomes the designation of MGEN Andres Centino as Commanding General of the Philippine Army," AFP spokesperson Marine Major General Edgard Arevalo said.
"His appointment came at the time when the AFP is vigorously pursuing its initiatives and building on its gains to the defeat the Communist Terrorist Group, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the BIFF. And this is where his attributes are expected to contribute immensely," he added.
"Given his known professionalism, operational experience, and managerial skills gained from various leadership echelons of the AFP, MGEN Centino will undoubtedly stir the Army to greater heights," Arevalo said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Sunday welcomed the Palace and Defense department's move to uphold the rule of law in appointing the Army commanding general.
"I thank and commend Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for rectifying an oversight in appointing Lt. Gen. Faustino, and for their adherence to Section 4 of RA 8186. Under the said law, Lt. Gen. Faustino is not eligible to head a major service command of the AFP as he has less than one year of active service remaining prior to reaching the age of compulsory retirement," the lawmaker said.
It was in March when Lacson raised the issue before the Commission on Appointments.
"That said, let me repeat what I said last March when I brought up the issue at the Commission on Appointments: I have nothing against Lt. Gen. Faustino. While he may be considered the most competent, he is not qualified because there’s a law saying he’s not qualified. Between the memorandum issued by the Executive Secretary and the law, it is the law that should take precedence," Lacson said.
Section 4 of RA 8186 says: "except for the Chief of Staff of the AFP, no officer shall be assigned/designated to the aforementioned key positions (including major service commanders) or promoted to the rank of Brigadier General/Commodore or higher if he has less than one (1) year of active service remaining prior to compulsory retirement." —KG, GMA News