MANILA, Philippines - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo vowed on Wednesday to oversee a smooth transfer of power, allaying fears soldiers may intervene in the May 10 elections after she installed a loyal general as army chief.
Arroyo is not eligible for another term as president and is expected to step down on June 30. More than 50 million Filipinos will elect on May 10 the country's next leader and nearly 18,000 other national and local officials.
"We remain deeply committed to a smooth transition to a new government," Arroyo said at Manila's main army base after the installation of Lieutenant-General Delfin Bangit as chief of staff of the 120,000-member armed forces.
"Our accomplishments and progress today must be passed on to new leaders to continue the forward march for progress. We will be leaving the nation safer than we found it because of the great performance of the armed forces of the Philippines."
Arroyo's appointment of Bangit, educated at Australia's defence and military institutions, drew criticism from political opponents who fear the military might meddle in the political process.
In a speech after he assumed leadership of the military forces, Bangit sought to allay her critics' concerns. "I will not allow anybody to use me for partisan politics," he said. "Only God can use me."
Arroyo, the second longest serving president in the country's post-war history, is not retiring from politics yet. She is running for a seat in the lower house of Congress and hoping to become speaker of the House of Representatives.