Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (Photo from Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Facebook page)

MANILA – Outgoing Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said it has been an honor for him to serve and make a difference as the country's 36th defense chief.

"Karangalan ko ang makapaglingkod bilang ika-36 na Kalihim ng Tanggulang Pambansa. Salamat sa inyong tiwala at suporta! (It was an honor for me to serve as the 36th National Defense Secretary. Thank you for your trust and support!)," he said in a Facebook post Tuesday.

Lorenzana, in a quote card attached to the same post, also said the DND in the past six years has been "steadfast in fulfilling its mandate," contributing to President Rodrigo R. Duterte's legacy of building a strong uniformed force.

"I want to be remembered as the Secretary of National Defense who was able to make a difference: the improvement of the Defense organization to better secure our nation," he added.

Under his term, the Philippines was able to acquire notable defense assets, such as the two Jose Rizal-class guided-missile frigates, two AgustaWestland AW-159 anti-submarine helicopters, 16 S-70i "Black Hawk" combat utility helicopters, and six A-29B "Super Tucano" attack aircraft.

Lorenzana will be succeeded by retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Jose Faustino Jr., who will sit as officer in charge and senior undersecretary of the DND.

Faustino, who retired on November 12 last year, will assume as Secretary on November 13, after the lapse of the one-year appointment ban on retired military officials.

Lorenzana, who was appointed by Duterte as DND chief on June 30, 2016, brought to the DND his expertise in national defense and security, special operations, foreign military affairs, public diplomacy, veterans affairs, and strategic leadership.

He is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1973.

Earlier, Lorenzana said the Duterte administration worked hard for the Philippines to attain a credible defense posture to protect its vast maritime territories.

He added that the AFP significantly stepped up its external defense operations to secure the country's strategic border areas and exclusive economic zone by increasing naval surface and maritime air patrols.

Lorenzana noted that during his term, the AFP launched sustained operations against the communist insurgents and violent extremists that led to the weakening of these pressing security threats.

He said the DND prioritized international defense and security engagements, wherein agreements were forged with traditional and non-traditional security partners, which brought the Philippines closer to becoming a strategic player in the Asia-Pacific region.

Under the Duterte administration, the DND further advanced good governance policies aimed at enhancing the organization’s capability to perform its mandate.

Republic Act (RA) 11709, signed by Duterte on April 13, sets a fixed three-year tour of duty for the AFP chief of staff, vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, major service commanders (Army, Air Force, and Navy), unified command commanders, and inspector general "unless sooner terminated by the President."

"The principal objective of this law is to allow general officers sufficient time, i.e., three years time-in-grade, to do their jobs. If they are not promoted to the next higher grade, they are retired. This ensures that only the best officers ascend the ladder of leadership. This also puts an end to the revolving door system in the AFP leadership that resulted from the retirement law passed in 1979," Lorenzana said.

AFP honors outgoing DND chief

On Tuesday afternoon, the AFP held a testimonial parade and review in honor of the outgoing defense chief.

AFP chief Gen. Andres Centino led the honors as the military recognized Lorenzana for his full support of the military's campaigns and programs.

“The Testimonial Parade & Review is the AFP’s acknowledgment of the contribution and service of the SND, a collective salute and appreciation of his life in government service. Today's (Tuesday) honoree deserves no less than our snappiest salutes and our loudest cheers,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

In the last six years at the helm of the defense department, Lorenzana was relentless in advancing the implementation of the AFP modernization program that enabled the AFP to perform its mandate of protecting the people and securing the state.

“The SND (Secretary of National Defense) was also on top of the pressing need to ensure that our personnel would have the technical proficiency to utilize the modern assets and equipment to the fullest,” Centino said.

The AFP also remembered Lorenzana's leadership during the Marawi siege, Covid-19 pandemic, and the implementation of various programs like Barangay Development Program, and Tatak ng Imprastraktura para sa Kapayapaan at Seguridad.

Centino also thanked Lorenzana for his commitment and support which led to the realization of the salary increase for AFP personnel and the grant of decent housing, especially to the families of soldiers killed in action.

“Today, the AFP can say we have better workspaces, living quarters, medical health facilities, and road networks, all of which means a stronger, more productive, and more responsive AFP,” Centino said.

In his speech, Lorenzana acknowledged everyone whom he has worked with throughout his life in government service.

“When I look back at my military career that started when I was a cadet in high school, followed by my cadetship in the Philippine Military Academy, commissionship in the Army, and all throughout those years until today, I couldn’t have achieved what I have done or reached this high, this far, without the help, assistance, and mentorship of so many people along the way,” he added.

Lorenzana also paid tribute to the AFP as a “very professional organization”.

“I have no regrets, I have fought the good fight. It was all an exciting, challenging, and personally rewarding journey,” Lorenzana said.(PNA)