For the 5th time, the Armed Forces Chief of staff is from EastMinCom

DAVAO CITY  (MindaNews / 03 January) — For the fifth time under the Duterte administration, the new Armed Forces Chief of Staff is again from the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) based in Davao City, where Presidentt Rodrigo Duterte served as mayor for 22 years.

The President named EastMinCom chief, Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos, Jr., a 1986 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, as the new AFP chief of staff vice Gen. Noel Clement who will turn 56, the mandatory retirement age in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, on January 5.

The turnover rites will be on Saturday, January 4 at the AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Santos, who assumed the post of EastMinCom chief on January 21 last year, will  serve the top post for seven months, unless Duterte extends his stay.

Santos will be 56 on August 3 this year.

In his three and a half years in office, Duterte, the first Mindanawon President,  has named a total of seven AFP Chiefs of Staff:  Ricardo Visaya from July 1, 2016 to December 7, 2016; Eduardo Ano from December 7, 2016 to October 26, 2017; Rey Leonardo Guerrero from October 26, 2017 to April 18, 2018; Carlito Galvez, Jr. from April 18, 2018 to December 11, 2018;/j Benjamin Madrigal, Jr. from December 12, 2018 to September 24, 2019; Noel Clement from September 24, 2019 until Santos succeeds him on January 4.

Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos, Jr. (R) listens to Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal during the latter’s visit to the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City on February 5, 2019. Like Santos, Madrigal was EastMinCom chief before he assumed the post of Armed Forces Chief of Staff in December 2018. Photo from EastMinCom

All seven appointees had stints in Mindanao but five served in the EastMinCom: Guerrero, Madrigal and Santos as EastMinCom chief, and Ano, Madrigal and Clement as 10th ID chief.

Galvez was chief of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) based in Zamboanga City while Visaya was commander of the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro City before moving on to the Southern Luzon Command as commander, his last post before becoming AFP Chief of Staff on July 1, 2016, Day 1 of the Duterte administration.

After their retirement as AFP Chief of Staff,  President Duterte appointed them to vital posts: Visaya is now Administrator of the National Irrigation Administration; Ano is Local Governments Secretary; Guerrero was Administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) from April 30, 2018 to October 24, 2018 and since October 25, 2018 has been the Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs; and Galvez is Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Duterte named Guerrero as AFP Chief of Staff in late October 2017 even if Guerrero was turning 56 on December 17 that year. He extended his term until  April 18, 2018.

Santos served as the 11th commander of EastMinCom.  Before that, he was commander of the 7th Infantry Division in Nueva Ecija, was Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the Philippine Army, Assistant Division Commander of the 6th Infantry Division based in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao; Commander of the 703rd Brigade; Group Commander, Intelligence and Security Group and Group Commander, Civil Military Operations Group, of the Philippine Army, Chief Military Personnel Officer of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Golan Heights; Assistant Chief of Unified Command for Operations, U3 of Central Command, AFP; and Commanding Officer of 63rd Infantry Battalion of the 8th Infantry Division.

He also served as Commanding Officer of the 11th Intelligence and Security Unit in Davao City. According to Eastmincom spokesperson Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey, he headed the unit in 2003.

In his junior years, Santos was a Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, Company Commander, and Battalion Intelligence Officer of the 39th Infantry Battalion in North Cotabato.

Guerrero, who was named Task Force Davao chief in 2010 and commander of the 701st Infantry Brigade in Davao Oriental in 2012, served as EastMinCom chief from November 22, 2015 to October 25, 2017. Madrigal succeeded him as EastMinCom chief from November 15, 2017 to January 21, 2019 and Santos succeeded Madrigal from January 21, 2019 to January 4, 2020.

Before his appointment as Philippine Army Chief and later as AFP Chief of Staff, Ano served as commander of the 10th Infantry Division from July 15, 2014 to July 16, 2015. Madrigal succeeded Ano as 10th ID chief from July 6, 2015 to September 1, 2015 and Clement from May 31, 2017 to December 22, 2018. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)