CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 27 Oct) – Outgoing Chief of Staff Jose Faustino Jr. assured the country on Wednesday that the 220,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines will remain neutral in the coming 2022 elections and would not follow orders from politicians.
The general said the AFP, which also has 360,000 reserve personnel, has become a professional military organization after it was dragged into past adventurism during the late ’80s.
“Makaasa kayo that the AFP will remain apolitical. We have learned the lessons from our past,” Faustino said.
He said the AFP will follow its political mandate of staying apolitical in the coming 2022 elections.
“Our mandate is to remain neutral in the coming elections. That we can assure the public,” Faustino said.
Faustino, who is known for his Davao ties, is the 11th AFP Chief of Staff appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte in six years.
He is set to retire next month. It is not known yet who will replace him.
Faustino said he had already issued a directive reminding soldiers to remain apolitical in the coming elections.
The order to stay neutral has already been relayed by the Army commanders of the 901st and 401st Infantry Brigades, who share a common responsibility to ensure a peaceful and normal elections in the province of Surigao del Sur.
Brig. Gen. George Banzon, commander of the 901IB, said they are concerned with the intense political rivalries between Surigao del Sur Governor Alexander Pimentel and Rep. Prospero “Butch” Pichay of the first district and his wife Carla.
“Both camps are locked up in a tug-of-war in getting support from local mayors and barangay executives,” Banzon said.
Brig. Gen. Allan Hambala, of the 401IB, said he has already directed his soldiers not to be “friendly” with both the Pimentel and Pichay camps.
“I told them we stay neutral,” he said.
Faustino arrived in Camp Evangelista here for his farewell visit to the 4th Infantry Division before he retires next month.
He led the decommissioning of 208 firearms that included 35 AK-47 rifles, 66 caliber .45 pistols, 9 M-14 rifles and 17 Garand rifles.
The firearms were seized by the military from the communist rebels during operations in the past year. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)