PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — IT’S President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s turf.
Thus said Malacañang as it tossed to the President calls for extending the tour of duty of Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado.
Press Secretary Cerge M. Remonde said that Ibrado’s extension of his term at the AFP is for the President to decide.
Remonde earlier welcomed the proposal of Sens. Noynoy Aquino and Manny Villar to extend Ibrado’s term until June 30, 2010.
In a manifesto, Aquino and Villar said Ibrado’s extension would ensure the stability and continuity of the leadership of the AFP during the election period, and the impartiality and reliability of the military institution in a crucial time in the country’s history.
Senator Francis Escudero, who is yet to announce his political plans in the 2010 elections, also signed the manifesto.
Ibrado is set to retire in March 2010, two months before the May 10 elections.
“The May 2010 elections is particularly crucial and important not only because the nation would be electing the next president and vice president who will lead the Republic during the next six years, but also this is the very first time that the Philippines will be conducting automated elections,” the senators said.
They said Ibrado enjoys the support and respect of the officers and men of the AFP as well as the entire nation.
It may be recalled that the President has extended the terms of former AFP Chiefs of Staff Roy Cimatu, Benjamin Defensor, Efren Abu and Hermogenes Esperon Jr. Abu was military chief at the height of the “Hello, Garci” scandal involving wiretapped recordings of alleged conversations on poll cheating operations in 2004 that favored President Arroyo.
There are pending bills in Congress seeking to put a fix term of the AFP chief of staff, but until now none has progressed.
Article XVI, Section 5 (7) of the Philippine Constitution provides that: “The tour of duty of the chief of staff of the armed forces shall not exceed three years. However, in times of war or other national emergency declared by the Congress, the President may extend such tour of duty.”
Also yesterday, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita assured that there will be no short cuts in replacing Ibrado.
Ermita reacted to fears of a so-called Oplan August Moon this December reportedly being plotted to extend the term of Mrs. Arroyo amid the prevailing fluid scenario.
The plot claimed Ibrado would be ousted in December and replaced with a “pro-Arroyo general.”
“In the AFP, we follow a procedure where the Board of Generals will make a recommendation to the President through the defense secretary. We can be sure the procedure will be followed,” Ermita said
Ermita also said that the issue is indeed a personal matter for Ibrado, pointing out it is possible for a senior AFP official to retire early, if he so wishes.