PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s “punishing schedule” the past days forced him on Tuesday to skip the change of command ceremony for the Armed of Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, as he “opted to rest” to stay healthy.
Duterte, who was supposed to lead the retirement ceremony of outgoing Armed Forces chief Benjamin Madrigal, was instead represented by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, according to his spokesman Salvador Panelo.
“The Palace wishes to announce that the President opted not to attend the Change of Command Ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo today, September 24, 2019, and instead designated Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana to represent him in the event,” Panelo said in a statement.
“The punishing schedule of official and social events the previous days has slightly affected the President’s body temperature. He opted to rest so he can be in his usual healthy self in no time,” he added.
Madrigal will be replaced by Lt. Gen. Noel Clement, who served as head of the AFP Central Command based in Cebu.
Clement also led the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division and served the military’s deputy chief of staff for operations.
Malacañang had said that Duterte ordered the new military chief to continue the government’s goal to end local communist armed conflict.
“The Palace is confident that with General Clement at the helm of the AFP, he will continue to uphold the high degree of professionalism, the dedication and the integrity our soldiers have displayed to the flag and country,” Panelo said.
Clement, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Sandiwa Class of 1985, will only have a few months as AFP chief as he is set to reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 in January 2020.
But Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles is confident Clement will deliver even in such a short period of time.
“Alam mo naman ang mga sundalo, bigyan mo ng trabaho, bigyan mo ng order, bigyan mo ng objective gagawin nila. So even with a few months left, kung ilan man ‘yan, I’m sure they will hit the ground the running,” he said.
(You know soldiers, you give them a job, order, objective, they will do it. So even with a few months left, no matter how many . . .)