Gibo: Extension of AFP chief's term only during emergency

Gibo: Extension of AFP chief’s term only during emergency
By Jaime Laude
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – President Arroyo should only extend the term of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief during an emergency situation, administration presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro said yesterday.

Teodoro said the Constitution is clear that the President is not allowed to extend the term of the AFP chief except during a state of emergency or in a state of war.

Teodoro noted the increasing calls for Mrs. Arroyo to extend the term of AFP chief Gen. Victor Ibrado, who is set to retire on March 10.

There are calls from the military and opposition leaders to extend Ibrado’s term for a few more months until after the May elections and a new president is sworn into office.

But Teodoro stressed the law could only allow the President to extend the term of the AFP chief in the exercise of an emergency power granted to her by Congress.

The President, for her part, has remained silent on the issue but sources revealed she would make an announcement before March 10.

Mrs. Arroyo did not mention anything about Ibrado’s possible extension during her keynote speech at the graduation rites of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio City yesterday.

Even top defense and military officials refused to comment, pointing out the President should make the announcement.

“You did not hear anything (about term extension) did you?” Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales asked reporters.

“I did not hear anything about it, too. (So) let us just wait for her announcement,” he said.

Gonzales said he has no idea when the President would make the announcement, and also refused to comment on who might possibly replace Ibrado.

He said the AFP would remain committed to its mandate and ensure the conduct of clean elections on May 10 regardless of who would be the AFP chief.

“Frankly speaking, it is not important if the term (of Ibrado) would be extended or if he would be replaced. The institution of the Armed Forces remains solid. Whoever would be the chief of staff will not really matter,” he said.

Ibrado, for his part, said there are no indications that his term would be extended.

He stressed that he is looking forward to retirement.

“I am prepared (to retire). Actually I have already packed my things.”

Ibrado said the first thing he would do as a civilian is to watch the upcoming bout of boxing champion Manny Pacquiao in Texas.

Ibrado, a member of PMA Class 1976, is bowing out service upon reaching his mandatory retirement age of 56 on March 10.

Teodoro is an adopted member of PMA Class 1976 that also includes Navy chief Vice Admiral Ferdinand Golez, PMA Superintendent Vice Admiral Leonardo Calderon and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Jesus Verzosa.

Calls for the extension of Ibrado’s term were brought about by the concern of some sectors that the President might appoint Army chief Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit as the next AFP chief.

Members of the opposition do not want Bangit to become the next AFP chief because he is perceived to be extremely loyal to Mrs. Arroyo, since he had served as commander of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), the unit tasked to protect the President and her immediate family.

If Bangit is appointed to replace Ibrado upon his retirement on March 10, he would be the AFP chief when the country holds its first automated elections on May 10. – With Alexis Romero

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.