MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte defended his appointment of former military officials in his Cabinet as Philippine Army (PA) Chief Maj. Gen. Rolando Bautista retired on Monday from the military service.

Duterte earlier named Baustista as incoming secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“Now let just make a clear to everybody. Many are questioning me even some ambassadors who are close to me: Why do you choose now most of them military or police -- retired? Well, I choose them because they are honest and competent,” Duterte said during the Army Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City on Monday.

“What else? Sabi nila na (They said) you want to be ingratiate. Ako? (Me?) I was not elected by the military. I was not elected by the police. I was elected by the Filipino people. You have your mandate, I have mine. If we can agree on so many things, good. If not, then I’m sorry. I have to make decisions that are really very hard. Iyon lang (That’s all),” he added.

Major Gen. Macairog Alberto, chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), replaced Bautista who reached his mandatory retirement age of 56 on Oct. 15.

Bautista will take the DSWD post vacated by Judy Taguiwalo whose ad interim appointment was rejected by the Commission on Appointments in August last year.

After Taguiwalo, Duterte designated Undersecretary for General Administrative and Support Services Group Emmanuel A. Leyco as officer-in-charge from August to May this year, and Undersecretary for Special Concerns Virginia Nazarrea Orogo as the acting secretary from May to October this year.

Ang hinihingi ko lang naman (What I’m asking), I said is that you are competent and you are honest. So the DSWD is vacant. So we are now talking, I am looking for an honest and competent guy and I choose Rolly Bautista to be the next secretary of (DSWD),” Duterte said, drawing applause from the audience.

Some of the ex-military and police officials Duterte’s Cabinet are Secretaries Roy Cimatu (Environment); Eduardo Año (Interior Undersecretary-OIC); Eduardo del Rosario (chair of Housing and Bangon Marawi Task Force; Commissioner Isidro Lapeña (Customs); and Glorioso Miranda (Bases Conversion and Development Authority).

In his speech, Duterte commended Bautista for his valuable contributions to the liberation of Marawi from ISIS-inspired Maute group and Abu Sayyaf.

“General Bautista, you have fully dedicated your life in the service of our country and our people. And as you hang up your uniform, you can stand proud knowing that you leave military service with a positive example to those who will follow,” Duterte said.

Duterte urged the soldiers to support the leadership of Alberto to sustain the gains of the reforms his government has implemented in the Philippine Army.

“The Filipino people counts on the Philippine Army to remain steadfast in its mission of preserving the peace and defending the freedoms we enjoy today. With your help, I am confident that we can realize our aspirations for a stronger armed forces and a safer and more secure nation,” he said. (PNA)