MANILA, December 2, 2004
(STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - After revamping the Department of National Defense (DND), President Arroyo ordered a slight change yesterday in the Armed Forces of the Philippinesí command structure.

Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz was instructed to transfer the command of forces in Masbate from the AFPís Southern Luzon Command to the Central Command.

Masbate is "traditionally considered more as part of the Visayas region," which is the Central Commandís jurisdiction, and transferring it "would result in more effective command and control of security forces," Mrs. Arroyo stated in her Memorandum Order 153, dated Nov. 11, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR.

Her order also stated that "the major services and other units of the AFP may be organized into such commands, forces and organizations as may be prescribed by the Secretary of National Defense."

"Further, the territory of the Philippines may be divided into such tactical and geographical areas and zones or regions and districts as the Secretary of National Defense may direct," Mrs. Arroyo ordered.

Cruz is also authorized to "reorganize the AFP in response to any situation or in pursuance to operational or contingency plans."

Central Command is headed by Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Teodosio while the Southern Luzon Command is under Maj. Gen. Pedro Cabuay.

Earlier, Mrs. Arroyo ordered a revamp in the DND, replacing the departmentís undersecretaries, who were retired generals, with bankers in line with efforts to "civilianize" the DND.

"The revamp at the defense department is part of the overall fight against corruption and waste in government and has implications on the future of our defense and security programs," presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

"This reinforces the Presidentís commitment to implementing reforms in the entire bureaucracy and put the fittest officials in key positions of authority."

The DND shakeup came on the heels of the scandal hounding Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, who is accused of amassing millions of pesos illegally.

The Garcia controversy has cast a shadow on the military, which critics say has been dragging its foot on the case. It has also led to investigations on other top officers as well their wives for allegedly amassing ill-gotten wealth.

It also raised the issue of massive corruption, which has been hounding the military since the failed mutiny of disgruntled junior officers last year.

In July 2003, some 300 officers and enlisted men from elite military units took over a condominium in a Makati City shopping mall complex, complaining of corruption in the military and poor conditions.

Mrs. Arroyo has implemented a number of reforms in the military to prevent a repeat of the mutiny.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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