Westmincom head named Army chief

Roel Pareño - The Philippine Star
Westmincom head named Army chief

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Armed forces Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) commander Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana was appointed by President Duterte as the next Army chief.

Outgoing Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay has been appointed to replace Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Felimon Santos, who will retire next week.

Gapay will assume as AFP chief on Aug. 3 as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the new military term for the AFP chief-of-staff.

Sobejana, a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1987, confirmed his assumption as the incoming Army commanding general after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Gen. Santos informed him that he would be Gapay’s successor.

“To God be the Glory,” Sobejana said in reaction to his coming promotion.

“Of course I am very happy to be selected to lead the Philippine Army. I consider this as a new challenge and I am very thankful to our Almighty,” Sobejana told reporters.

He will build up the capabilities of the Army, in terms of equipment and human resource, including the crafting of techniques, tactics and procedures for the ground troops in the frontlines.

Sobejana is a veteran Abu Sayyaf hunter and has earned the Medal for Valor, the Philippine’s highest military honor in combat, after he defended his soldiers when he was still a young Army captain during an encounter in 1995 against 150 Abu Sayyaf bandits under the late founder Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani in the hinterlands of Basilan.

During that encounter wherein he injured his right arm, Sobejana led his troops in a four-hour fierce firefight and repulsed the enemy attack.

Sobejana, prior taking the helm of Westmincom, led the Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) that initiated the surrender of more than a hundred Abu Sayyaf members in Sulu in 2017.

He said that top AFP officials are still studying the list of candidates to succeed him as Westmincom commander.

Sobejana assured the people that there will be no changes in the strategy to eradicate the remaining Abu Sayyaf members and other local terror groups in Central Mindanao.

“A responsive security template was already conceptualized. All we need to do is to further capacitate our ground forces through equipment build-up, training and doctrine development,” Sobejana said. – Romina Cabrera

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