MANILA (2nd UPDATE) -- A veteran Army intelligence officer who served in President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown is the new chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, a Malacanang official said Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr will replace outgoing Chief of Staff Gen. Noel Clement on Saturday, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said. Before his new appointment, Santos was chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command.
Santos previously headed 11th Intelligence Service Unit based in Davao City and the Philippine Army’s Intelligence Service Group.
A member of the Philippine Military Academy “Sinagtala” Class of 1986, Santos spent most of his junior years with the 39th Infantry Battalion tasked to fight communist guerrillas in Mindanao.
He was also involved in numerous peace and security programs in the southern Philippines, which is usually marred with terrorist attacks according to the military.
Santos headed the Army’s 7th Infantry Division in Nueva Ecija, which is at the forefront of the campaign against the New People's Army in Central Luzon.
President Duterte will attend turnover ceremonies between Santos and Clement on Saturday, said Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, the President's former special assistant.
Duterte skipped the change of command ceremony when Clement assumed the 3-month leadership of the military in September.
The incoming army chief promised to continue the “campaign against the lawless elements, insurgents and terrorists” in an interview on ANC Thursday.
“We have a campaign plan na sinusunod natin then ’yung parang pinaka bibliya natin. So anybody who sits there will continue the campaign to accomplish our end state, our mission that is bringing peace and prosperity to our country,” said Santos, who will serve in his post until he retires in August.
As he has witnessed in hotbed areas of the New People’s Army (NPA) such as Western Mindanao, he also recommended “localized peace negotiations” to resolve the conflict with the communist rebels.