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Philippines-Arroyo Appoints New Military Chief of Staff (05 Sep 02)

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo yesterday named the brother of one of her bitter critics as the new military Chief of Staff, provoking charges that it was a political move.

Her choice of Lieutenant-General Benjamin Defensor, the current air force chief, has set off speculation that it was intended to make former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago change sides to the administration.
Lieutenant-General Defensor will replace of Staff General Roy Cimatu who is scheduled to retire on Tuesday, presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

However, due to the rules requiring that an officer retire at age 56, he will serve only a few months. His 56th birthday is next Thursday but Mrs Arroyo is allowed to extend his term until Nov 18, Mr Bunye said.
Even so, this would be the shortest stint for the top commander of the 130,000- strong armed forces.

The outgoing Chief of Staff, Gen Cimatu, took office on May 20 and will step down after less than half a year as head of the military.
Lt-Gen Defensor is a 1971 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy and has received medals for combat against Muslim separatists in the south.