By FROILAN GALLARDO
Special Correspondent .
PRESIDENT Duterte named the commander of the military’s central command as the next chief of staff of the Armed Forces.
Lt. Gen. Noel Clement, commander of the central command based in Cebu, bested several other contenders from various AFP area commands, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
“I am honored with the designation and nagpasalamat tayo kay President for giving me his trust and confidence,” Clement said.
Clement is the sixth AFP chief of staff appointed by Duterte during his term.
His previous assignment was commander of the Army’s 10th Division fighting communist rebels in northeastern and southern Mindanao.
He assumed command of the AFP Central Command on Nov. 16, 2018.
Prior to his stint as commander of 10th Division and AFP Central Command, Clement led joint AFP-MILF operations to find suspected terrorist bomber Abdul Basit Usman in Pikit, North Cotabato in 2015.
Usman, who carried a US$1-million bounty, was killed by fellow terrorists the same year.
Clement is a member of PMA Class of 1985, and was born in Lipa City in Batangas on Jan. 5, 1964.
He was raised in Davao where his father worked at the Dole Phiippines.
As AFP Central Command commander, Clement ordered operations against the New People’s Army rebels around Guinhulgan town in Negros Oriental.
Clement was also named as one of the respondents in the case pertaining to the disappearance of activist-agriculturist Jonas Burgos when he was still the commander of the 56th Infantry Battalion in Bataan.
The general denied any involvement in the Burgos case, saying it is an “old case.”
“That’s a very old issue, and I will not honor them by answering that. They did not even have any iota of evidence against me,” Clement said.
Clement said he would pursue the AFP campaign against communist rebels but this time with the “involvement of the entire Filipino people.”
“Hindi puwedeng yung Armed Forces lang or yung local government units lang. This is a national problem so we have to address this as a people,” Clement said.