"High salute to these new leaders."
President Duterte’s designation of a new Armed Forces chief of staff and a new Philippine Army chief may be said to have come at the beginning of the end of the long-running communist insurgency movement in the country and the terrorism in Muslim Mindanao.
Outgoing Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay today, August 4, succeeds retiring Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. as AFP chief of staff.
To take Gapay’s place as Philippine Army commanding general is Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, current commander of the AFP Western Mindanao Command (WESMINCOM).
Both are known fearless fighters, who have led their men in battles versus the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Gapay, who topped the prominent Philippine Military Academy “Sinagtala” Class of 1986, has vowed to press for AFP modernization and increased capability during his six months at the helm, the culmination of 35 years of service.
The new AFP chief of staff recently made the headlines when he rejected the “grim picture” being painted by critics against the new Anti-Terrorism Law, saying the AFP is the people’s protector and not the enemy.
We were impressed when he also minced no words in condemning the massacre of four Army intelligence operatives by a group of policemen in Jolo, Sulu on June 29, branding it as a murderous rubout.
Sobejana has had a lustrous career in the Philippine Army since he graduated as a member of the PMA “Hinirang” Class 1987.
He is a recipient of the coveted Medal of Valor as a newly-promoted Army captain in 1995 when he led his platoon against some 150 ASG fighters in a gun battle, lasting more than four hours.
Although heavily outnumbered and wounded, Sobejana continued to trade shots with the terrorists even after a bullet almost severed his right arm.
Despite serious injury, Sobejana led his men in rescuing the ASG’s local and foreign captives. This leader truly deserves the AFP Medal of Valor.
When asked to comment on the high expectations from him, Sobejana said it comes with the job and merely strengthens his commitment and dedication to his sworn duty.
The fearless warrior, who is nonetheless a God-fearing public servant, said “I consider this as a new challenge and I am very thankful to our Almighty, like what they say, God is so good and to God be the glory.”
He pledged to work on building the capability of the Philippine Army in terms of equipment and human resources, as well as come up with doctrine, techniques, tactics and procedures that will ensure victory of troopers in the frontline.
Looks like the 51-year old communist NPA and the pesky ASG are in a lot a trouble now.
In thanking President Duterte for his trust and confidence in lead the AFP and the Philippine Army, respectively, Gapay and Sobejana said they are fully aware of the military’s “expanded role” in this time of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
Beyond their mandate to protect and secure our country against external and internal threats, all the branches of the AFP are called on to support and assist the delivery of relief goods and assistance to the most needy constituents of the communities, particularly the poorest of the poor.
High salute to the new leaders of the AFP, as we rest assured the military is certainly in good hands.