MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III has promoted Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command chief Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya to the next higher rank of lieutenant general, making him a candidate to succeed retiring AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang.
"He deserves the rank as a long-time incumbent commander of the Southern Luzon Command. He had numerous accomplishments as commander of the Southern Luzon Command," said AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, referring to Visaya.
Aquino signed Visaya's promotion papers last Thursday.
Visaya, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class of 1983, assumed the post of commander of the Lucena City-based Solcom September last year.
Prior to this, he was the commander of the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro City.
"His promotion makes him one of the candidates for the chief of staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines. He is a candidate with his promotion," Cabunoc said.
Asked for his goal after his promotion, Visaya said: "It depends on what they will give me, if they will give me one. If they will, then I have to do my best."
"I will just wait if they are going to elevate me (to another position). If not, so be it. We are not actually choosing a position. I accept any position which they believe is fit for me," the official said.
The incoming AFP chief is usually chosen by the President, the military's commander-in-chief, from among the three-star generals and flag officers.
There are 11 three-star officers currently in the military establishment - five of them, however, are due for retirement within the year and may have a slim chance of getting appointed to the top military post.
The five are AFP vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. John Bonafos, Navy chief Vice Adm. Jesus Millan, Northern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Felicito Virgilio Trinidad, Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, and Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero.
Six other three-star officers - Visaya, Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado, Central Command chief Lt. Gen. Nicanor Vivar, Western Command chief Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez, and PMA superintendent Lt. Gen. Oscar Lopez - are all retiring next year.
Iriberri, also of PMA class 1983, is said to be a protege of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
Delgado, on the other hand, is reportedly close to President Aquino, having served with the Presidential Security Group during the time of late president Corazon Aquino.