‘There’s a time for everything,’ says removed PH Air Force chief
He is the second major service commander under President Rodrigo Duterte to be asked to leave his post ahead of his retirement. But Philippine Air Force chief Lieutenant General Galileo Gerard Kintanar is not ready to talk about it.
Kintanar begged off from answering questions when Rappler approached him on the sidelines of the handover ceremony for the Balangiga Bells on Tuesday, December 10.
“There’s a time for everything,” was all he said when asked to comment on speculations swirling around his removal as air force chief.
Duterte signed on December 5 the appointment of Western Command chief Lieutenant General Rozzano Briguez as the new Air Force chief. He is scheduled to formally assume command on December 21, the founding anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The President's move came from out of the blue and surprised many, because Kintanar won’t reach his mandatory retirement age until January 2020. In a statement, the military said “there is nothing irregular” with the appointment, saying it is “part of the ongoing movement in the top posts” in the armed forces.
“The AFP officers are accustomed to such movements," said AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo on December 6.
This has not stopped the tongues from wagging.
Kintanar’s removal drew attention to the stalled procurement of helicopters for the air force because of claims made by a Facebook page known to military observers for its access to documents and goings on in the secretive camps.
In early November, the Facebook page had warned of the leadership change in the Air Force, claiming that Kintanar was being forced out because he supposedly opposed “corrupt officials close to Duterte” seeking to make changes in the P12-billion chopper project.
The page likened it to the controversy that hit the navy last year – also just before Christmas – when former Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado was unceremoniously removed from his post following disagreements over the weapons system of the navy’s brand new frigates.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana denied it, insisting that Kintanar's removal was nothing out of the ordinary.
“Normal lang yan sa rigodon. Prerogative ng President kung sino ilalagay na CGPAF (It is normal in the rigodon in the military. It is the prerogative of the President who he wants to serve as commanding general of the Philippine Air Force,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana also defended Kintanar from an alternate version of the story that paints the outgoing air force chief as corrupt.
“Some people are speculating that there must have been some anomalies or that he was sacked. But he was not. General Kintanar is a very upright person, very honest and very competent,” said Lorenzana on December 6.
Kintanar and Briguez enjoy good reputation in the military. Both class barons, Kintanar is a 1985 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, while Briguez graduated in 1986.
Duterte cancelled in February a contract to buy 16 Belle 412EPI helicopters from a Canadian supplier after Canada said it was going to scrutinize the deal because of Duterte's record of human rights violations.
The deal was meant to be a repeat order of a tested hardware, and the choppers were supposed to start arriving by early next year to beef up the Air Force's assets.
The military tried to insist on buying the same Belle 412EPI choppers from a counterpart supplier in the US. But this was also rejected by Malacañang. The project remains pending.
There’s another theory going around in military circles about Kintanar’s removal.
Briguez and Kintanar reportedly entered into a term-sharing agreement, such that Kintanar would take the post of Air Force Lieutenant General Salvador Mison, incumbent AFP vice chief of staff.
The problem is that Mison, who is not retiring until June 2019, was only belatedly informed about the arrangement and balked at the idea, according to the rumor mill.
Kintanar’s fate in the military hierarchy remains uncertain. Lorenzana also spoke about offering him a post in government. – Rappler.com
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