IF the tide will not turn against him, Philippine Army commanding general Hernando Iriberri may assume command of the entire 120,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) today, besting other bets from the other branches of the military.
The Manila Times tried to get a confirmation from Iriberri himself but like Malacanang, the military official could not give a categorical answer.
“The decision has not been announced yet. Let’s wait for it,” Iriberri said.
A Palace official, on the other hand, said the Army chief appeared to be the most likely successor of outgoing AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, who reached his retirement age of 56 today.
“Iriberri daw (It’s Iriberi),” the source said.
The Army chief is widely known as a protege of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who served as the late President Corazon Aquino’s chief of the Presidential Security Group from 1986 to 1992.
Iriberri was Gazmin’s spokesperson when the latter was chief of the Army. Later, Gazmin took in Iriberri for a similar position in the Department of National Defense (DND) until his appointment as commander of the 60,000-strong army.
Besides Iriberri, also considered as a “shoo-in” for the top AFP post is Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado who, like Iriberri, is close to President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Delgado is a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1982 while Iriberri belongs to Class 1983.
Both officers are retiring before the May 2016 elections, meaning if either of them gets appointed, the President might extend their service beyond the mandatory retirement age since the election ban does not apply to the particular post of AFP chief.
Malacanang on Thursday released an official advisory and media plan for today’s turnover ceremonies at the AFP Officers’ Club in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City but the slot in the prepared program for the “incoming” AFP chief was empty.
Insiders said Delgado was also a member of the PSG during the time of Mrs. Aquino.
In 2010, the President took Delgado as his Senior Military Assistant. The Air Force officer then rose to head the PAF which is now facing a number of controversies.
The Board of Generals has recommended five names to the AFP post —Delgado, Iriberri, Southern Luzon Command chief Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, Western Command chief Navy Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, and Central Command chief Air Force Lt. Gen. Nicanor Vivar.
The other three officers are considered as “dark horses.”