THE commission on appointments yesterday confirmed the ad interim appointments of Gen. Noel Clement as Armed Forces chief of staff and Vice Admiral Allan Francisco Cusi as superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy.
Clement, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985, will serve as the 52nd AFP chief but has only about two months to serve as he is set to retire on January 5 next year.
Sen. Imee Marcos recommended to the panel that there should be a fixed term for AFP chiefs of staff to prevent retiring officers from being appointed to the highest military post.
Before being confirmed, Clement was grilled by several senators and congressmen, specifically on the AFP’s stand on martial law in Mindanao.
Clement said the AFP is still assessing the overall situation in Mindanao but hinted that they may recommend martial law in certain areas of the region.
“But as we see it right now, the current security situation in Mindanao has improved a lot. If we will be asked, it might probably only in certain areas in Mindanao. As I’ve said, a lot of areas have improved security situation,” Clement said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza had said he is not inclined to recommend an extension of martial law in Mindanao, which has been in effect since May 2017 and is supposed to expire on December 31 after it was extended thrice.
Clement was also asked why the problem on the Abu Sayyaf has not ended despite the military’s pronouncements that it will put an end to the lingering problem, particularly in the islands of Tawi-tawi, Sulu, and Basilan.
He did not give a direct answer to the question, saying he will furnish the panel with specific steps the AFP has been employing in stopping the bandit group.
Asked what improvements he will impart in the AFP given that he has only about two months in service, Clement said: “The AFP has programs in place, the transformation road map, which defines what the AFP should be doing in plans and programs. The chief of staff will make sure that the programs are continuously implemented regardless of whoever the chief of staff is the AFP already has programs in place.”
Clement said he believes the modernization of the AFP will not be completed as envisioned in the year 2028 due to a number of pressing issues that he did not elaborate on.
On the West Philippine Sea issue, he said he will also provide the panel of specific steps and number of diplomatic protests the government has filed against China.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan also questioned Clement on the memorandum of agreement entered into by the AFP with the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company (Mislatel) for the telco to build communication towers in military camps. Clement assured that safeguards will be in place to protect and safeguard the country’s interests.
Pangilinan said he will move to cancel the agreement once irregularities are monitored.
Cusi said he is optimistic he can end the culture of hazing at the PMA, highlighted anew when cadet 4th Class Darwin Dormitorio died last Sept. 18 due to massive bodily injuries inflicted by senior cadets.