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Jockeying for top military position intensifies

JOCKEYING has intensified among senior officers who are aspiring to become the next Armed Forces chief of staff.

The officers reportedly have their own backers or lobbyists who have the ear of the President, sources said.

There are persistent talks that the Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Jessie Dellosa, will turn over his post to his successor during the Armed Forces anniversary celebration in December, more than a month before he reaches the mandatory retirement of age of 56 on January 20, 2013.

Dellosa is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1979.

A senior officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said the general manager of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), retired Maj. Gen. Jose Angel Honrado, is vouching for Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz (PMA Class 1980), Air Force commander.

“It was General Honrado who was behind his [de la Cruz’s] appointment as Air Force chief. The position was then hotly contested by two strong candidates, Maj. Gen. Ricardo Banayat and Maj. Gen. Jose Tony Villarete, the source said.

Banayat is currently the commander of the 1st Air Division based in Clark Field, Pampanga, while Villarete is the commander of the 3rd Air Division based in Zamboanga City. Both are PMA classmates of Dellosa.

Reached for comment, Hondrado denied the report that he was lobbying for the appointment of de la Cruz to the military’s top position.

“I have retired from the military already. The selection of the Chief of Staff is the President’s sole prerogative,” Honrado said.

BusinessMirror tried but failed to get the side of de la Cruz through his mobile phone.

Allegedly, de la Cruz was able to secure Mr. Aquino’s “initial consent” when the President told him, “O, ikaw na ang susunod na Chief of Staff,” during one of the regular weekend firing sessions in Malacañang. Mr. Aquino himself is a gun enthusiast.

Gazmin’s hand

ANOTHER senior officer, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin is working for the appointment of the Army commander, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista (PMA Class 1981).

“I received information that Secretary Gazmin prefers General Bautista to be the next Chief of Staff,” he said.

If Bautista gets the Chief of Staff position, the source said, the Armed Forces vice chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes (PMA Class 1980), will be named Army commander.

“As far as I know, that’s plan of the Gazmin camp,” the source added.

But some senior officers expressed dismay over the “jockeying,” which involves retired military officials who also happens to be close to Mr. Aquino.

“That’s bata-bata system. Such lobbying is very unprofessional because this circumvents the promotion processes. Unfortunately, the two generals vying for the Chief of Staff position happened to be members of the Board of Generals (BOG). I could not imagine kung ano na lamang ang sitwasyon sa loob ng conference room kung nagmi-meeting ang BOG kasama itong dalawa,” the source said.

The BOG composed of Dellosa; Coballes; The Deputy Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gregorio Macapagal; Bautista, the Navy flag officer in command, Vice Adm. Alexander Pama; and de la Cruz. The body deliberates on the promotion and designation of senior officers, including the position of Armed Forces chief of staff.

Earlier, military insiders who were privy to the promotions board said the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) chief, Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara and Coballes were also being eyed strong candidates to replace Dellosa.

Honrado, a non-PMAer and a product of the Air Forces Flying School, was a spokesman for the Armed Forces during the watch of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He retired from the service in 2007.

Honrado was Mr. Aquino’s security adviser during the 2010 campaign. He also served as an aide-de-camp of Mr. Aquino’s mother, President Cory Aquino.

Gazmin (PMA Class ’68), on the other hand, served as the head of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) of Cory Aquino.

He was promoted Army chief by then President Fidel Ramos and retired a lieutenant general.

 

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