MALACAÑANG’S top legal adviser cautioned President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Saturday against extending the term of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Victor Ibrado once his tour of duty ends this March.

Chief presidential legal counsel Raul Gonzalez said the 1987 Constitution lists only two conditions that allow Ibrado’s term to be extended, and none of them exist now.

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“That will violate the Constitution. As far as I’m concerned, the President cannot extend his term because that is violative of the Constitution,” Gonzalez said on government-run dzRB radio.

He said the two conditions are if the country is in a state of war and there is a state of emergency declared by Congress.

Article XVI, Section 7 of the Constitution states, “The tour of duty of the Chief of Staff of the armed forces shall not exceed three years. However, in times of war or other national emergency declared by the Congress, the President may extend such tour of duty.”

“Once he (Ibrado) retires, the President should appoint new chief of staff,” Gonzalez said.

But while he said that he already informed President Arroyo of his stance, he admitted the final decision is still up for her to make. “Mine is just an opinion. The final decision belongs to the President.”

Ibrado is due to retire March 10, but some lawmakers had pushed a term extension for him.

Gonzalez downplayed the calls, saying the lawmakers merely do not want Army chief Lieutenant General Delfin Bangit to take Ibrado’s post.

“They don’t want Bangit because they believe Bangit is close to the President. That is the agenda), I think. Why would they insist extending the term of Ibrado if extending is against the Constitution?” he said. (JMR/Sunnex)