MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte will be skipping the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) change-of-command ceremony on Monday due to a prior engagement, the AFP spokesperson said Sunday.
Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said Duterte "has a prior commitment so he cannot personally attend" the ceremony for the assumption of new AFP chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay.
Arevalo also said Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana will be presiding over the change-of-command which will be held at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club at 10 a.m.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Arevalo said the ceremony will be done without the traditional parade and review. It will also be held indoors with limited guests.
Only "principal guests" will be allowed inside the Tejeros Hall, while the other guests will be staying at the Lapu-Lapu Grandstand where the ceremony will be aired live via LED panels.
In September 2019, the President also skipped the assumption ceremony for Gen. Noel Clement, who served until January this year.
Though it has been a tradition for the President to preside over the assumption of the new AFP chief, Arevalo said the President's presence is not actually a requirement.
"Either of the two (President and Defense Secretary) will do as presiding officer, not necessarily the President. So it depends on the availability of the President. If he (President) is available, he'll attend," Arevalo said.
"But if he (the President is) not available, it does not diminish the significance of the presiding officer being the secretary of national defense," he added.
Gapay, the outgoing Army chief, will take over the helm of the AFP from Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. who is reaching the retirement age of 56.
Gapay is the eigth AFP chief to be appointed by Duterte since assuming the presidency in June 2016.