MAJ. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado, AFP deputy chief of staff for plans, is the likely successor of Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz who is due to reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on April 30.
But he would be up against the “Gazmin boys” in the race for chief of the Armed Forces.
AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista is reaching the retirement age on July 20.
Delgado is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1982. Then a colonel, Delgado was named senior military assistant of President Aquino in July 2010.
Delgado was assigned with the Presidential Security Group in the 80’s during the presidency of Corazon Aquino, the current President’s mother.
“He is the likely choice,” said a source of Delgado, who he said is backed by a retired Air Force general who is “a trusted man of the President.”
If appointed Air Force chief, Delgado will be qualified to succeed Bautista as AFP chief but his chances may be slim because he will be up against officers who are favorites of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
One of the sources said Gazmin is closer to the President than Delgado’s backer.
Gazmin, a former Army chief, served as PSG commander during the Corazon Aquino administration.
Gazmin is reportedly pushing for the designation of his favored officer, Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, as AFP chief. A member of the PMA Class 1983, Iriberri assumed as Army chief last January.
Apart from Iriberri, the others reportedly vying for the top AFP post are Northern Luzon chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang (PMA Class ‘81), Central Command chief Maj. Gen. John Bonafos (PMA Class ‘82), and Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero (PMA Class ‘81).
“The President will likely listen to Secretary Gazmin (in the appointment of AFP chief),” the officer said, adding that the race for AFP chief will be a close fight between Iriberri and Catapang.
A senior Air Force officer said there are three other contenders for the post of Air Force chief.
He identified the three as AFP deputy chief of staff Lt. Gen. Virgilio Domingo (PMA Class ‘81), 3rd Air Division commander Maj. Gen. Nicanor Vivar (PMA Class ‘82), and Chief of Air Staff Maj. Gen. Edgar Fallorina (PMA Class ‘82).
However, the source said, “They have no political backers so it’s anybody’s guess (who will be Air Force chief).”