MANILA President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday expressed gratitude to outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. for his dedication in strengthening the military and securing the nation.
In a speech delivered by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on his behalf during the AFP change of command ceremony at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Duterte said Madrigal's untiring commitment has paved the way for numerous reforms within the organization.
General Madrigal, I congratulate you for completing your remarkable tour of duty as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. You have made a mark in this noble institution by initiating and pursuing organizational reforms to strengthen its operational effectiveness, Duterte said.
We thank you for your steadfast leadership and for ensuring that the AFP remains to be a reliable player in our whole-of-nation approach to achieving security and development in the country, he added.
Duterte said among these reforms include the increase in the AFP's authorized troop strength and the activation of the 4th Marine Brigade to improve command control over government troops in Jolo.
The President also lauded Madrigal for improving the country's internal security operations under his watch.
Thousands of local and communist terrorist group members have been neutralized, apprehended or surrendered, making our communities safer, Duterte said.
Our troops have also remained at the forefront of humanitarian assistance and disaster response, particularly in the aftermath of the earthquake in Batanes and the capsizing of a motorized banca in Guimaras, among others, he added.
Duterte recalled how Madrigal conducted hundreds of surface and air patrols in seaboards and deployed AFP personnel to the Kalayaan Island Group, which bolstered territorial defense.
Meanwhile, Duterte also urged troops to support the new AFP Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Noel Clement.
I now enjoin the troops to continue the fight against the threats of terrorism and insurgency under the leadership of the new Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Noel Clement, Duterte said.
He also assured troops that government will continue to support and upgrade AFP capabilities and pursue initiatives in securing the safety of Filipinos.
Be assured that the entire nation is behind you as you bravely march towards the battlefield to advance the common good and secure genuine and lasting change for our motherland, Duterte said.
Madrigal, 56, was appointed as AFP chief on December 11, 2018.
Prior to his appointment, he commanded the Eastern Mindanao Command, Southern Luzon Command, the 4th Infantry Division, the 701st Infantry Brigade, and the 26th Infantry Battalion.
Madrigal's previous posts include chief of staff of the Philippine Army; chief of War Plans in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans J5; Secretary Joint Staff; and chief of the Army Management and Fiscal Office.
He is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985.
Clement, on the other hand, is the 52nd AFP Chief of Staff and the sixth under the Duterte administration.
Clement, commander of the Central Command, will serve for barely four months, as he is set to reach 56 years old, the mandatory retirement age for military service, on January 5, 2020.
Duterte skipped the ceremony because he needed time to rest from his punishing schedule, according Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who was present during the event.
The punishing schedule of official and social events the previous days has slightly affected his body temperature. He opted to rest so he can be his usual healthy self in no time, Panelo said in a statement.
On Sunday, Duterte attended the baptism of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and wife Rowena Kristina Velasco's daughter, Sara, in a hotel in Makati City.
Duterte was also present in Panelo's surprise birthday party on Monday night. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency