Marine commandant resigns amid rumored feud with Navy chief

MANILA, Philippines – Five months before his scheduled retirement, the commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC), Major General Alvin Parreño, relinquished his post on Monday, October 14, amid rumors of a rift with Philippine Navy Flag Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad.

Parreño's term was not supposed to end until March 2020 when he turns 56, the mandatory age of retirement from the military service.

Parreño handed over his post to Major General Nathaniel Casem in a change-of-command ceremony at the PMC headquarters, Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown, at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City. 

Empedrad attended the ceremony as guest of honor. He and Parreño both belong to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986.

"I am leaving 5 months before my scheduled retirement with a grateful heart, and a peaceful spirit, and my principles intact, and my conscience unperturbed," Parreño said during his speech.

"I have to relinquish this command to give way to a younger generation of warriors," he went on, adding that he was "absolutely confident" in Casem, whom he called "a man of integrity and high moral standards."

Empedrad, in turn, saluted and congratulated Parreño "for his outstanding and successful command of the corps for more than two years."

Parreño became PMC commandant in September 2017.

The Navy chief credited him with the restructuring of the PMC, including the activation of 5 new marine companies and the "provisional activation" of 4 marine brigades to match the acquisition of new assets, such as amphibious assault vehicles and Howitzer artillery guns.

Disagreement

What drove Parreño to quit?

Last Thursday, October 10, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Noel Clement told reporters that Parreño was "planning to go on early retirement" pending the approval of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

CNN Philippines reported that Lorenzana had known about "the Navy chief's plan" to replace Parreño over "long-standing differences." 

But in a media interview on Sunday, October 13, Empedrad denied having "differences" with Parreño.

He even offered to promote Parreño to Navy vice commander, Empedrad said, but Parreño declined.

The two officers did disagree over the Marines’ proposal, under Parreño, to break away from the Navy and become its own branch of service under the AFP, Empedrad admitted.

However, the Navy chief said the disagreement was “resolved" when the Marine Corps was turned into a key budgetary unit. The PMC now handles its budget separately from the Navy while remaining under its command.

Okay kami (We’re okay). I think I am okay and he is okay,” Empedrad said, adding that it has been decided that the Marines would not separate from the Navy to avoid “chaos.”

Assuming command of the Marine Corps on Monday, Casem said, "We need to understand that we have to work within the context of a fleet marine concept. We need other naval components and enabling naval command. We need to seek tighter and closer integration with the Philippine Fleet and need support from the Naval Construction and Engineering Brigade.”

“It is high time for us to go back to our unique identity that is naval in character and seafaring in nature,” the new Marine Commandant added. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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