General Año should stay as AFP chief
Last Saturday in time-honored rituals signifying the end of a brilliant military career, retiring military chief Gen. Eduardo Año, Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1983, received his final salute in uniform from the Corps of Cadets Armed Forces of the Philippines. On the same hallowed grounds where 38 years ago he vowed allegiance to the flag and service to his people, Año bade farewell to the long, gray line and the institution that shaped and sustained a lifetime in the profession of arms.
Speaking before the cadet corps, Año recalled his days as a cadet wearing the same uniform and engaging in the same activities. Earlier, he was faced with a decision to become a priest or to join the PMA. He chose the latter. “The PMA made me strong when I was weak; brave when I was afraid.” But he always kept in mind that “at the end of the day, the final arbiter
in all our actions is our own conscience.”
He noted that “the Marawi campaign was led by majority of PMA graduates.”
Almost 80 percent of the ground commanders are from the academy. And he leaves the service proud and fulfilled because he has worked with the finest soldiers in the region. “I am truly proud of our soldiers.”
Somehow, I was reminded of another farewell address by one of America’s greatest military figures, Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In his last and perhaps most memorable speech to the cadet corps of the US Military Academy in 1962, he told the cadets that they were facing a new world, a world of change.
“And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable. It is to win wars. Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication… You are the ones who are trained to fight.
“Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the
sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory, that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed…
“Today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.”
On Thursday, Año is scheduled to retire from the AFP since he will be reaching age 56, the compulsory retirement age for military personnel. He has spent less than a year as AFP chief of staff.
As early as May this year, President Duterte already announced that Año would be the next secretary of the interior and local government. It is a tribute to Año that even before his retirement from the AFP, the President already tapped him for another position just as critical and sensitive as the one he now holds. As I mentioned in an earlier column, Año has the reputation of a professional soldier with no political attachments, and the ability to deliver when a job has to be done.
Although some fighting continues, we must now turn to reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts for Marawi. Año deserves much of the credit. The siege took longer than expected because we were not prepared for a different dimension in a conflict that previously was mostly fought in the jungles. It showed that no one was looking beyond the horizon. There was little time devoted for planning and execution with different scenarios in mind.
Now more than ever, we need Año to continue as AFP chief. The battle for Marawi may have come to an end but the requirement to re-orient the Armed Forces remains an urgent matter of vital importance, and Año is best suited for the job. He knows what needs to be done and the last thing we would like to see is another “revolving door” action that may please a few, but will not benefit the military organization. A new chief of staff on Thursday would be the 20th AFP chief in the first 17 years of the 21st century.
We must keep in mind that this is not the end of the Islamic State threat in the Philippines. It is only the beginning and we are likely to see the emergence of other leaders, younger and more aggressive than those we have eliminated. We have to keep in mind what Plato, the philosopher said: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” We must never let our guard down. Much remains to be done.
Often the face of war is reflected on the faces of those who are tasked to report periodically to the public, the status of the conflict.
For the Armed Forces, it is the recently promoted Air Force Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., Class 1985. He is the son of Gen. Restituto Padilla Sr., former commanding general of the Army, Class 1957. He is concurrently head of Plans and Programs (J-5) at GHQ, AFP.
For the forces on the ground, the face of Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., Class 1989, is most prominent. He is the son of former
Comelec commissioner Romeo Brawner Sr. and the nephew of Brig. Gen. Felix Brawner, Class 1957. As deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao, Brawner reports to Brig. Gen. Ramiro Rey, Class 1987, the commander of the task force and head of the Special Forces Regiment.
Joint Task Force Marawi is headed by Maj. Gen. Danilo Pamonag, Class 1985. He took over from Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista, the recently designated commanding general of the Philippine Army. Pamonag also heads Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident that has overall control of direct military action against enemy forces in Marawi. The force is composed of Special Operations units from the Army, Air Force, Navy and the Marines.
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