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Army chief retires next week

Army Chief Lieutenant General Arturo Ortiz retires next week in the midst of the anticipated launch of a military operation in Basilan against the so-called “lawless elements” being coddled by the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, who had ambushed and killed 19 Special Forces troops and wounded 14 others last October 18.

Ortiz, the highest ranking surviving recipient of the military’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor, will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on November 13. He has reportedly asked to step down a few days earlier.

Ortiz, who used to be part of the elite Special Forces commando unit, was the head of the Special Operations Command when he was appointed Army chief in July 2010 by then newly installed President Benigno Aquino III.

Two classmates of Ortiz in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1979 are the leading contenders to succeed him as head of the more than 70,000-strong Army.

These are Lieutenant General Anthony Alcantara, currently the third highest official in the Armed Forces as deputy chief of staff, and Lieutenant General Jessie Dellosa, who currently heads the Northern Luzon Command.

Nine two-star generals were also considered for the post by the Board of Generals, which is composed of the highest officials in the military.

They are 9th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Josue Gaverza (PMA Class 1978); Inspector General Maj. Gen. Irineo Espino; Deputy Chief of Staff for communications Maj. Gen. Elmir de la Cruz; 2nd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Romulo Bambao; PMA Superintendent Maj. Gen. Nonato Peralta (all from PMA Class 1979); 10th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia and 1st Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Noel Caballes (both of PMA Class 1980); and 3rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Baustista and Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr., deputy chief of staff for operations (both PMA Class 1981).

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Colonel Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the 11 contenders all have at least one year remaining in the service.

The Board of Generals has already submitted its short list of candidates from which the President will choose the next Army chief, he said.

Burgos did not say how many candidates are in the short list.

AFP Chief General Eduardo Oban Jr., who also belongs to PMA Class 1979, is set to step down on December 9.

Meanwhile, the AFP announced also on Wednesday that Dellosa and Mabanta were among the 15 senior military officers promoted by the President effective October 15.

One of those promoted was the deputy chief of staff for civil military operations, Commodore Miguel Jose Rodriguez, who is now a rear admiral.

Rodriguez served as military spokesperson until August of this year when he was investigated—but eventually cleared—after a member of his staff, Major Christopher Patindol, went absent without leave after allegedly taking P1.15 million from a supplier.

Even though he has been cleared, Rodriguez did not resume his role as the AFP spokesperson.

Patindol meanwhile remains missing. With Frances Mangosing, INQUIRER.net

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