Politics

Marcos appoints new DND secretary amid coup rumors

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PRESIDENT Marcos speaks with Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., whom he has appointed Defense secretary to replace Jose Faustino, Jr. — PCO

PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has appointed a new Department of National Defense (DND) secretary, the presidential palace said on Monday, amid rumors of destabilization plots.

Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., the presidential adviser on peace, will replace Jose Faustino, Jr., who quit. The palace did not say why.

Mr. Marcos in June appointed Mr. Faustino as temporary senior undersecretary and officer-in-charge of the Defense department, which supervises the country’s armed forces.

He was put under a one-year ban on the appointment of retired military officers after he retired in November 2021.

Mr. Galvez, a retired general of the Philippine Army, headed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under former President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Mr. Marcos’ predecessor. He also served as vaccine czar and chief enforcer of the country’s coronavirus pandemic plan.

Mr. Faustino’s resignation came after an unexpected change of command in the military at the weekend with the reappointment of General Andres C. Centino as military chief of staff.

A few hours after the ceremony, reports of alleged destabilization moves by military officials circulated on messaging apps and social media platforms.

A supposed Philippine National Police (PNP) memo, which the PNP had disowned, placed all police units under a heightened alert status “in view of the resignation of all [Defense] personnel in Camp Aguinaldo.” The AFP has also dismissed reports of alleged destabilization attempts by its members.

“The military bloc is a major political bloc in the post-EDSA era,” Arjan P. Aguirre, who teaches politics at the Ateneo De Manila University, said in a Facebook Messenger chat, referring to the February 1986 uprising that ousted the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, the current president’s father.

“They have learned to politicize their role that’s why they have remained to be one of the stable sources of personnel who can be appointed to important government posts,” he said. “These appointments are just the offshoot of their ability to negotiate and compromise with the new administration.”

Mr. Aguirre said the military bloc is “not homogenous and monolithic” since there are factions that have political loyalties and access to patronage networks.

“These factions have learned to coordinate and cooperate with other bigger military factions that have managed to get bigger shares and offers for political gains and positions,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine military ruled out loyalty checks among its ranks.

“We do not need a loyalty check because the Armed Forces of the Philippines is professional,” military spokesman Medel Aguilar told Radyo 5. “We will support anyone appointed by the president as chief of staff.”

At a separate televised briefing, police spokesperson Jean S. Fajardo said the PNP’s cyber-crime unit was investigating the source of the destabilization rumors on social media.

“The PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group has started its probe and is determining who is the source of these social media posts spreading the destabilization rumor,” she said in Filipino. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and John Victor D. Ordoñez