MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday distanced himself from the leadership changes in the Philippine Navy, following the relief of its commander, Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado.
“I don’t know. Hindi ako ang nag-a-ano niyan. I have to ask. You know, I do not really interfere in the Armed Forces. Hinahayaan ko ‘yan sila diyan. Mag-reshuffling, whatever, transfer. I do not interfere, even with the Police. I only sign sa kanila ‘yung promotion, appointments,” Duterte told reporters in Pasig City, where he visited the wake of a slain cop.
“So I do not ask because it does not concern my personal intervention. Eh may ano ‘yan sila diyan. You think that it’s about time that you are assigned to another command, kanila ‘yan, hindi ako. Ayaw kong makialam. Hindi talaga ako.”
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Chief of Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero replaced Mercado following orders from higher-ups.
The AFP did not disclose the reason for Mercado's relief, saying it will be “explained in due time.”
Mercado was replaced by Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad as acting flag officer-in-command.