Philippine military chief quits after being shunned by incoming president

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Philippine military chief quits

MANILA, Philippines — The chief of the 120,000-strong Philippine military retired Tuesday after the incoming president said he would replace him when he takes power next week — a move the general declared a “dangerous precedent.”

Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit was widely viewed as close to outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He previously served as head of her elite presidential guards.

Arroyo’s successor, Benigno Aquino III, the son of democracy icon and former president Corazon Aquino, swept presidential elections in May. He takes power June 30. He announced his plans to dismiss the military chief of staff when the election result was declared two weeks ago.

Bangit had been due to retire in July next year. He was replaced Tuesday by his deputy, Lt. Gen. Nestor Ochoa.

Ochoa takes command of an ill-equipped military — one of the region’s weakest — plagued by corruption and restiveness in the ranks. It faces some of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies of communist and Muslim rebels.

At farewell ceremonies attended by Arroyo at military headquarters, Bangit suggested military chiefs of staff should be made to serve their full term and not forced to step down because of perceptions of their loyalty to an outgoing leader.

“My concern is that this might set a dangerous precedent,” Bangit said.

He rejected impressions that he was an Arroyo loyalist, saying he was loyal to the constitution and God.

“I am retiring for the sake of the service,” Bangit said. “It is not good for the armed forces to be embroiled in a controversy like what happened here.”

Arroyo praised Bangit and his decision to quit early, saying “he chose the early exit as the more honorable path to take.”

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