Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Delfin Bangit on Tuesday bowed out of service with a warning: that what happened to him may set a "dangerous precedent" to future heads of the Philippine military organization.
"My concern is that this might set a dangerous precedent. What happened to me might happen to future chiefs of staff during a transition of government," Bangit said in a speech during the turnover ceremony held at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
"I am concerned that because of what happened to me, people will think that the [post of] AFP chief of staff is co-terminus with the president. It is not and will never be," he told the audience, which included outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Bangit was forced to cut short his tour of duty after President-elect Benigno “Noynoy" Aquino III openly rejected him to be his military chief of staff. He was supposed to retire on July 31, 2011 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56.
Bangit is the first Armed Forces chief in recent history to have been eased out during the turn of a new administration. Last week, he submitted his early retirement application to Mrs. Arroyo, who in turn approved it on June 21.
Bangit is perceived to be loyal to President Arroyo, their professional relationship dating back when she was still vice president. Bangit then was commanding officer of her security detachment.
President Arroyo is an honorary member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class of 1978, of which Bangit is a member.
President Arroyo, in her speech, praised Bangit for opting to retire early. "He still has 13 months to go before he retires, but he chose the early exit as the more honorable path. I thank you for that... and I thank you for your many sacrifices," she said.
In his speech, Bangit pointed out that while he remained loyal to the Philippine Constitution, his detractors had consistently cast a blanket of doubt over his allegiance.
"I must be the most badly hit by the word [loyalty]. My loyalty to the Constitution has been doubted to have been misplaced. I have delivered sincerely every oath I made, that oath of a Filipino soldier. And the oath when I said, ‘Sa Diyos lang ako magpapagamit (I will be an instrument only to God’," he said, referring to his oath when he took over the top military post last March.
Armed Forces vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Nestor Ochoa will assume Bangit’s post in an acting capacity and stay there for the remainder of President Arroyo’s tenure, which ends on June 30.
Ochoa is associated with Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, having served as the battalion commander of the presidential guards during her administration.
In his assumption speech, Ochoa praised Bangit for his "soft spot" for soldiers and the entire military organization. He also lauded Bangit for leading the military during what he considered as "honest, orderly, and peaceful elections" last May 10.
He said he believes Bangit would "bounce back from this experience and come out successful in the end" as he expressed readiness to head the "caretaker" leadership of the Armed Forces.
Ochoa also urged his men to support not only Aquino but whoever the next military chief of staff will be.
Present during Tuesday's ceremony were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, and Deputy Director General Jefferson Soriano, who represented Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa.
Last week, Bangit started making the rounds in a number of military detachments across the country to bid his soldiers goodbye. [See: Bangit on early retirement: A service to Filipinos, not a 'sacrifice']— KBK/RSJ, GMANews.TV
Reposted From GMA News.TV