MANILA – The months-long guessing game on who will be the next secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Governments is over: he is Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo M. Año, who was introduced by President Duterte himself at departure rites before he flew to Cambodia Wednesday.
At the same time, he justified packing his Cabinet with more ex-soldiers, joking that soon, he will have a complete “junta” on board.
Pressed by a reporter on whom among the May 9, 2016 losing candidates might land positions in his Cabinet with the lapse of the one-year ban on appointing also-runs, Duterte asked General Año to step in front and stand facing the reporter, and then said, “you are facing the next DILG secretary.”
The President gave an implied justification of his choice of the top soldier for DILG, saying “I have a problem with the police…” adding that a soldier might be better suited to help him discipline the PNP, which is under DILG supervision.
Duterte said he is confident his choice of Año is as proper as his selection of another AFP chief, Gen. Roy Cimatu, whom he named Environment secretary on Monday, replacing Gina Lopez who was rejected by the Commission on Appointments.
He joked that with Cimatu and Año on his Cabinet, “dadagdagan ko pa ng isang military, kumpleto na ‘yung junta [I will add one more soldier and my junta will be complete].”
Año won’t be leaving AFP just yet
It was unclear, however, when exactly the President intended to put Año on board the DILG, as his term expires in October 2017, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age for the military.
Duterte, however, gave an indication that Año taking the DILG helm would not happen immediately when he told reporters: “I want him [Año] to complete because there are projects which he has to…No, at this time, you cannot just pull out somebody in the Armed Forces, especially those tasked [with] programming what will happen next. And the remedies we are supposed to be ready [with].”
Año is presiding over the AFP as the defense and military establishment is embarking on the third horizon of the multibillion, multiyear Armed Forces modernization.
Besides the increased responsibilities in guarding territories, the military also has to deal with the communist insurgency – despite pending peace negotiations with the Left – and with rising threats of terrorism, including those from home-grown groups seeking recognition from global players like Islamic State.
Recently, Duterte also asked the AFP to help the PNP in the war on drugs, a move that had some analysts warning about the legal implications of such and the danger of overburdening the military.
Bureaucracy ‘militarized’ sets off alarm
Lawmakers raised alarm about the “militarization of the bureaucracy” with the appointment of General Eduardo Ano, the current chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), as Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Akbayan partylist Representative Tom Villarin urged Año to decline the appointment, saying “it would not serve the best interest of the AFP and the Filipino people.”
“It’s militarizing the bureaucracy and a department which focuses on good governance,” he said.
Villarin added that bringing in the AFP in the war against drug was not consistent with public policy.
“There would be legal issues that would hound such appointment,” he said.
Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate echoed that the appointment “is only further militarizing a largely civilian agency and does not bode well for our peoples’ human rights.”
“The growing influence in the administration of military generals, especially those linked to human rights violations, is gravely alarming, because these are the same people whose allegiance to the interventionist US policy is unquestionable and who are also brazenly averse to the ongoing peace process,” he said..
“It would be to the best interest of the country if the one to be placed as the new Interior Secretary would be an honest and competent civilian that is knowledgeable of the workings of local governments and public safety,” Zarate added. With reports from Maricel Halili and Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, News5-InterAksyon