Estrada, Pimentel see no problem with AFP leadership change

(CNN) Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 20) – Senators see no problem with yet another leadership change in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) despite the law aimed at ending the “revolving door policy” in the military.

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. appointed Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner as AFP chief of staff, replacing Gen. Andres Centino. Under Republic Act No. 11939, Centino is eligible to keep the post until 2026, since the law grants him a fresh three-year term after being reappointed in January.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who led public hearings on the measure as chairman of the committee on defense, said while the law provides for a maximum tour of duty, this can be “sooner terminated by the President.”

“When Gen. Andres Centino was reappointed last January as Chief of Staff of the AFP and now has him replaced by Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner ahead of his compulsory retirement, the President exercised his prerogative as the Commander in Chief which is allowed under RA 11939,” Estrada said in a statement Thursday.

“If I may further emphasize, the authority to appoint is one of the President’s foremost powers under our Constitution,” he added.

In a separate text message to CNN Philippines, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said the three-year term under the law is just the maximum allowable period – “not a matter of right of the appointee.”

“I will defer to the judgment of the president who is the commander in chief,” Pimentel added.

Estrada commended Centino, saying the outgoing chief of staff “made significant accomplishments in improving our internal security situation” and will be handing over “a much better AFP” to Brawner.

Estrada expressed confidence in the new AFP chief.

“Throughout his distinguished career, Lt. Gen. Brawner has proven himself as a capable military leader. His extensive experience in various key positions within the AFP has honed his skills in managing complex operations and addressing the security challenges that our country faces,” he said.

Pimentel also believes Brawner is qualified for the job.

“Gen. Brawner has served the AFP his whole adult life and we have seen his high profile assignments in the service. I have no derogatory information about him,” he said.

While Centino will serve as presidential adviser on the West Philippine Sea, Brawner takes over the helm of the military amid debates on a pension reform that is feared to result in the early retirement of many of its members.