Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr., 55, is the newly appointed Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), replacing General Emmanuel Bautista who served for 18 months – the longest term of any chief of staff in the past 10 years. Before being appointed by President Benigno Aquino on July 18, Catapang held the position of vice chief of staff of the AFP. He graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1981, and has since held numerous command positions, including as commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division and commander of Northern Luzon Command based in Tarlac City.
Catapang has known Aquino for decades, having met him in the 1980s when he joined the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) that pushed for the ouster of former president Ferdinand Marcos. With the help of RAM, President Aquino’s mother, Corazon Aquino, was propelled to the presidency.
Why is he in the news?
Catapang was officially sworn in on August 11. Although he had just been appointed to vice chief of staff in May, Catapang’s close ties to President Aquino and strong command background probably played a role in helping secure his appointment.
What can we expect from him?
Lt. Gen. Catapang will serve in his post for just 12 months and will have to retire at the mandatory age of 56 in July 2015. Due to his limited tenure, Catapang is unlikely to alter the current direction of the AFP. He has stated that he plans to implement the guidelines laid out in the the AFP Transformation Roadmap, designed to modernize the Philippine military and help it cope with emerging security risks in the region.
Catapang will continue working toward completing a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and oversee the implementation of the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States.