By ANTHONY VARGAS
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo named on Monday her most trusted army general as the new chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), military officials said.
The President announced the appointment of Army Chief, Lt. General Delfin Bangit as AFP chief of staff during a chance interview with reporters at San Sebastian in Manila where she was a guest of honor at a student’s forum.
But, the appointment of Bangit as the new chief of staff of the 120,000-strong AFP came as no surprise to several military officials, saying that Bangit’s appointment was expected.
“That’s the price for loyalty. Any President would have done the same, I wish him good luck,” detained Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin said in a text message sent to defense reporters.
The marine colonel detained for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Arroyo administration on February 2006, said Bangit’s appointment isn’t longer big news to him.
“I was never surprised at all, all throughout he [Bangit] has been loyal to President Arroyo and so we give him credit since he is the one who had gambled here before,” Querubin said.
Bangit, who belongs to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 78, will be succeeding AFP Chief, General Victor Ibrado who on Wednesday will turn 56, the mandatory retirement age for military personnel.
For his part, Ibrado, the outgoing AFP chief, sees no problem with Bangit becoming his successor when he retires on Wednesday.
“As far as I am concerned, he is very professional, he has proven that he is a very good commander and I think he would do a good job as chief of staff,” Ibrado told defense reporters.
In past interviews, Ibrado said that Bangit was among the three senior military officers that he recommended to the President and to the Board of Generals (BOG) to be his successor.
The outgoing chief of staff also defended Bangit from accusations that he will be used to cheat in the coming elections. “Those are unfair accusations. He is an upright man,”
Before being named as Army chief, Bangit was the commander of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) and of the army’s 2nd Infantry Division based in Tanay, Rizal.
Bangit also served as chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).
Military sources said that being groomed to succeed Bangit as Army Chief are Solcom Commander Lt. General Roland Detabali and Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), Lt. General Raymundo Ferrer.
Ferrer belongs to PMA Class 77, while Detabali is Bangit’s ‘mistah’ in PMA Class ‘78 that had adopted President Arroyo as one of their honorary members.