ARMY chief Lieutenant General Delfin Bangit was named as the new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced the appointment of Bangit in a chance interview during the Citizenship Advancement Training (CAT) Military Ceremony at San Sebastian College Monday.

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Bangit replaced General Victor Ibrado who will retire upon reaching the military mandatory age of 56 on March 10, the same date that bans Arroyo from doing appointments two months before the Election Day.

The appointment of Bangit of Philippine Military Class 1978 was not a surprise even to Ibrado.

Talks have already been floated that Bangit is the “most favorite” of President Arroyo as she is an adopted honorary member of Army chief’s class.

Bangit bypassed other senior Philippine Military Academy (PMA) officials belong to “Masikap” Class of ’77 and “Magilas” Class of ’76 namely General Nestor Ochoa, General Ricardo David, General Raymundo Ferrer, General Ben Dolorfino, Navy Flag Officer in Command Ferdinand Solis Golez, Lieutenant General Rodrigo Maclang, and Vice Admiral Leonardo Calderon.

But Deputy Presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar assured the President has considered those who will be bypassed by Bangit in her process of deciding on who will succeed Ibrado.

Earlier, several sectors have expressed concern over the appointment of Arroyo’s “most trusted” army chief, fearing that it will lead to another “Hello Garci” scandal in the coming elections.

Ibrado in an earlier interview said these accusations were unfair believing that Bangit is an “upright man.”

Political leaders like Senator Rodolfo Biazon and Jejomar Binay have also joined mounting calls pushing for the extension of Ibrado’s tour of duty to maintain stability in the military ranks.

With Arroyo’s decision, Olivar said the Palace is ready for criticisms and violent reactions especially from the opposition.

“Well, I’m sure we will have criticisms about that, but again, we have to trust the President’s wisdom and discretion in this matter. And it was General Ibrado who wants to retire, so we have to respect it,” he said.

He also dismissed speculation of no proclamation, stressing that automated election is already on the go.

“This is again, all sorts of wild hearsay and speculation. Again, no basis, no evidence—they are just throwing anything against the President without even having second thoughts if true or credible or reasonable. How come there will be no-proclamation if there is automated election, there will also be no election failure,” he defended.

President Arroyo said the turnover rites for the new military chief will be held either Tuesday or Wednesday.

His message

Bangit meanwhile vowed to protect the interest of the Filipinos when he formally assumes as the commander of the 120,000-strong military establishment.

In a statement through his spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, Bangit said: “I am very thankful with the decision of the Commander-in-Chief. More than it is an honor for me, I would like to assure the people that I will do my very best to serve the interest of this nation and the Filipino people.”

“Just like what I did when I assumed command of the Philippine Army, I assured every member of the organization that I will be a very, very good commander to them. For my plans and undertakings, I will announce it upon my assumption,” he added.

His background

Bangit, who hails from San Mateo Rizal, is the 51st Commanding General, Philippine Army.

He was then Commander of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) based in Lucena City from May 2008 to June 2009.

He also served as Commanding General of the 2nd Infantry Division of Philippine Army; Chief Intelligence Service of the AFP and Group Commander of Presidential Security Group.

He has been the Chief of Staff, Intelligence and Security Group of the Philippine Army; Company Commander of Alpha Company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 2nd Infantry (Jungle Fighter) Division, Philippine Army; Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G2), 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army; Area Command Staff for Intelligence, Solcom, AFP; and Battalion Commander, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 2nd Infantry (Jungle Fighter) Division, Philippine Army.

Bangit is a graduate of the Command and Staff Course at the Australian Army Command and Staff College and Pre-Commander Course for Battalion Commander and Infantry Officer Advance Course at the Combat Arms School, Training Command, Philippine Army.

He took up Anti-Urban Terrorist Patrol Training at the Louisiana State Police Academy and the Foreign Officer Tactical Intelligence Course at the School for Military Intel in Australia.

The new military chief finished his Master of Defense Studies from the University of Canberra, Australia in 2000.

He is a recipient of several distinguished military awards such as service stars, bronze cross medals, silver wing medal, merit medals and a US military commendation medal, among others.

Bangit is married to Daisy Magdangal-Bangit and blessed with three children, Harold, Diane, and Hector. (Jill Beltran/With VR/Sunnex)