MANILA – Activist groups on Wednesday criticized the Duterte administration for appointing a general involved in various operations targeting communist rebel leaders as the new chief of staff of the Armed Forces.
ABS-CBN sources said Wednesday that Lieutenant General Eduardo Año has been appointed the new chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, replacing General Ricardo Visaya.
Año’s reported appointment did not sit well with party-list group Kabataan, which said that the Army commanding general’s rise to the top of the military hierarchy “signals the Duterte administration’s intent on forging a brutal, unapologetic, and violent armed forces.”
“To appoint Año as head honcho of an already bloodstained institution is to underline a future wherein summary killings and abductions continue unabated,” Kabataan party-list group said in a statement.
“To appoint Año as AFP chief of staff is to condone his record as human rights violator, and to rub salt on the wounds of his victims, including the Burgos family," the group added, in reference to the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos.
Año was implicated in the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos in 2007, when he was chief of the Philippine Army's intelligence service group.
Jonas' mother Edita Burgos, filed a case against Año and other military officials. Año was later cleared of all charges, but the Court of Appeals ruled that the AFP was indeed answerable to Burgos' disappearance.
Meanwhile, Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said Año’s appointment “only forecasts more human rights violations with the continuing implementation of the counterinsurgency campaign Oplan Bayanihan.”
Oplan Bayanihan is the anti-insurgency program implemented during the time of former president Benigno Aquino III.
“Gen. Año implemented Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan which sowed terror in the countryside. No doubt with him as AFP Chief of Staff, the massacres, military occupation of civilian communities, and harassment of activists will continue,” Crisostomo said.
“We urge Duterte to reconsider Año’s appointment, stop the continuing military operations, illegal arrests, killings, and harassment of activists under the Oplan Bayanihan, and immediately pull-out AFP troops from the countryside.”
Año served as brigade commander of the 201st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and as commanding general of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division with operational responsibility over Davao Region, parts of Region 12, and two other areas.
Under his leadership, the 10th ID launched an operation that resulted in the killing of Leoncio Pitao aka Kumander Parago, the highest NPA official and most influential leader in the Davao region. Parago is also considered a friend of Duterte, who served as Davao City mayor for two decades.
Año also served as assistant chief of staff for intelligence of the Army, and then moved up to assistant chief of staff for intelligence of the entire Armed Forces.
During this time, top NPA leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, and Andrea Rosal - alleged NPA commander and daughter of the late NPA spokesman ka Roger Rosal - were captured.