MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said the country's defense sector fully supports the appointment of Philippine Army (PA) commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. as the next Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff.
"In the interest of an orderly transition his (President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.) choice for Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. was supported by the whole defense establishment together with (outgoing AFP chief) Gen. (Andres) Centino and myself," Teodoro said in a press briefing with select reporters at the DND headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Teodoro said this appointment highlights the stability of succession in the military.
Brawner replaces Centino, who was appointed as Presidential Adviser on the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Asked for possible reasons on Centino's appointment, Teodoro said this probably "underscores the importance of the WPS and the dynamic of the events which occur there on a daily basis".
This also reflects the need of the President to have someone there a "presidential adviser with cabinet stature", he added.
The DND chief also said the change in AFP chiefs will be as seamless as possible with as "much continuity of policies both in the transition to external defense and internal security."
Malacañang on Wednesday announced the appointment of Brawner as the military's next chief.
Prior to his appointment as AFP chief, Brawner has been serving as Army chief since December 2021.
He was a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1989 and graduated number two in his class.
Brawner served as the company commander of the 6th Special Forces Company; battalion commander of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion; operations officer of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne); chief of staff of the 6th Infantry Division; chief of the PA public affairs office, AFP spokesperson, and commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade during the aftermath of the Marawi Siege in 2017.
Brawner also served as the commandant of PMA, playing an important role in the total eradication of hazing and maltreatment in the Cadet Corps. He later served as the first deputy chief of staff for AFP deputy chief of staff for financial management or J-10.
Brawner worked as commander of the 4th Infantry Division, supervising the unit’s combat operations that led to the decisive neutralization of Jorge Madlos or “Ka Oris,” the commander of the National Operations Command of the New People’s Army.
He acquired three Master’s Degrees: Master’s in Information Management from the Ateneo de Manila University; Master’s in Business Administration from the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand and from the European School of Management, Oxford, United Kingdom; and Master’s in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College (USAWC).
He also received numerous awards and recognitions, including The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers in 2013 by the Metrobank Foundation and Rotary Club of Makati, and the Lapu-Lapu Award by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for his valuable contributions in the neutralization of Abu Dar, the last of the original leaders of the Maute-ISIS faction.
In March this year, Brawner was inducted into the USAWC International Fellows Hall of Fame in recognition of his service at the highest command position in the Philippine Army.
Brawner was also conferred the Legion of Merit–Degree of Commander in recognition of his exceptionally meritorious service as the PA chief, particularly in ensuring that the Army remains trained, ready, and postured for all missions.
Centino already reached the mandatory retirement on Feb. 4 this year but qualified for another three-year term following the signing of Republic Act 11709.
Under Republic Act 11709, the AFP chief of staff, vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, heads of the major services (Army, Navy, and Air Force), unified command commanders, and inspector general will have a three-year term of office "unless sooner terminated by the President."
Centino served as PA commander from May 14, 2021 to Dec. 10, 2021. His other assignments include commander of the 4th Infantry Division, AFP deputy chief of staff for operations or J-3 in military parlance and head of the 401st Infantry Brigade.
Centino graduated cum laude from the PMA.
He also holds a Master’s in Business Management from the University of the Philippines, Master’s in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University in Washington D.C. and a certificate in the Strategic Business Economic Program of the University of Asia and the Pacific.
AFP welcomes Brawner's appointment
The military also welcomed Brawner's appointment as its next chief.
"The AFP welcomes Lt.Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. as the new Chief of Staff AFP. The 145,000-strong AFP shall support the incoming CSAFP (Chief of Staff AFP) who has proven his sterling leadership and excellent performance of assigned tasks in the field of AFP operations, modernization and transformation," AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said in a statement Thursday.
He also added that the AFP renders its "snappiest salute" to Centino and wish(es) him the best in his next endeavors.
"(And) to our outgoing CSAFP, Gen. Andres Centino. We wish him the best and look forward to working with him in his next position as the Presidential Adviser on the West Philippine Sea," Aguilar said.
Focus on WPS
Meanwhile, Centino said his appointment as Presidential Adviser on the West Philippine Sea was brought by the need to focus on that particular part of the country.
"There was a need to bring focus on the matters in that part of the country, we have actually mechanisms as to how these issues should be addressed, we have the National Task Force -West Philippine Sea but our leadership has deemed it important that (we give) focus and importance on the way we address the issues there in a bigger scale and that's why they thought of creating an Office of the Presidential Adviser," the outgoing AFP chief said.
Also, Centino said there is a need to address "geopolitical issues" more appropriately.
And when asked what issues the President wants to address in the WPS, the outgoing AFP chief said that there are incidents that should not happen if addressed properly.
Also, Centino said that his office, which is being established, will be an interagency "interagency task force."
"As to the specific you know the office has yet to be created, so no specifics yet but what is clear is that there should be more focus on, in how we handle or address the problems there (in the WPS)," he added.
Meanwhile, the Western Command’s (Wescom) top brass on Thursday also welcomed the appointment of Brawner as AFP chief of staff, saying he is the right man to help navigate the troubled waters of the WPS.
Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, Wescom’s commander, told reporters he is confident that Brawner will give the right operational guidance on WPS territorial issues, as well as other external security concerns.
Wescom’s chief also expressed expectations of a swift resolution to the country’s internal security challenges, such as those posed by communist and Islamist guerillas, under Brawner’s leadership.
In view of the leadership transition, Carlos said his command is prepared to adhere to and carry out new strategic directives.
"Wescom is confident that total victory against internal security threats will finally be achieved under the watch of our new CSAFP. Wescom is ready to implement our new CSAFP's operational guidance to fully address WPS issues and other external security challenges," he emphasized.
Wescom, the command touted as “Protector of the West Philippine Sea and the Last Frontier,” is at the forefront of efforts to assert Philippine sovereignty in the marine territory, and has managed to de-escalate near-confrontations with Chinese vessels in the disputed waters. (With a report from Izza Reynoso/PNA)