MANILA: The son of a general slain by Moro rebels in Mindanao in 1977 has been appointed by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino as the new chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), according to a Malacanang Palace official.
Assistant Secretary Abigail Valte, the deputy presidential spokesman, said Aquino named Lieutenant General Emmanuel Bautista, the Philippine Army chief, to replace General Jessie Dellosa as the 44th commander of the 125,000-strong AFP.
The command turnover ceremony, Valte said, is to be held on Thursday following Dellosa’s decision to advance his retirement date by three days as he has yet to reach his compulsory retirement age of 56 on Jan.20.
Bautista was a freshman cadet at the government-run Philippine Military Academy when his father Brigadier General Teodulfo Bautista, also a PMA graduate, was killed in an ambush by Moro rebels in the town of Patikul, Sulu province in restive Mindanao on Oct.10, 1977.
On Wednesday, Bautista said he was “humbled” by his appointment as the new AFP chief of staff as he stressed: “I can only repay this trust and confidence by devoting the remaining days of my career in the service of our people and the performance of the AFP mandate.”
Known more as a field and combat officer, Bautista held several responsible positions in the military starting with his stint as a first lieutenant and platoon leader of an infantry battalion in Mindanao where he served for three years from 1980 to 1983.
Bautista is also acknowledged as the “brains” behind the controversial military counter-insurgency programme known as “Bayanihan” which aims to shift focus of operations from internal security to territorial defence by 2014.
Such shift has been considered significant due to the unresolved territorial standoff between the Philippines and China over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea (renamed by Manila as West Philippine Sea).
But critics have warned the continued implementation of the programme would result in more human rights violations including “summary executions” in the Philippines.
The announcement on Bautista’s appointment also coincided with the end at midnight on Tuesday of the nationwide holiday ceasefire between the military and the communist New People’s Army (NPA).