Incoming Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, vowed to work harder to further professionalize the military.
“Let us work together to pursue a professional military that is always ready to protect the Filipino people and (secure) the country,” he said in a message to reporters Wednesday night.
Sobejana also thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for the trust he gave him, adding that it is a “great honor” for him to be selected as the 55th AFP chief.
“I am deeply grateful for the trust given to me by our Commander-in-Chief, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, to take on responsibility and ensuring that this great institution of ours will faithfully perform its duty in protecting the sovereignty of our country against internal and foreign threats,” said Sobejana, incumbent commander of the Philippine Army (PA).
Sobejana will replace Gen. Gilbert Gapay, who will mandatorily retire from the service on February 4.
Meanwhile, AFP spokesperson, Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, said Sobejana “epitomizes the finest in Filipino soldiery” by being awarded the Medal of Valor (MOV) —the highest military award that can be bestowed to a soldier for conspicuous and singular act of gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.
“He is the pride of PMA (Philippine Military Academy) “Hinirang” Class of 1987 — the class with the Medal of Valor recipients—and holds the distinction of being the first AFP Chief of Staff in 72 years who was awarded the MOV,” he added.
Based on available military records, Arevalo said there are only three AFP chiefs who were awarded the MOV since the founding anniversary of the AFP on December 21, 1933.
“These were Maj. Gen. Paulino Santos, the 2nd Chief of the AFP from 6 May 1936 to 31 December 1938; followed by Maj. Gen. Mariano Castañeda, the 5th Chief of the AFP from 21 December 1948 to 28 May 1951. And then Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the 55th Chief-of-Staff, AFP,” Arevalo said.
He added that the MOV has been only awarded to 42 military officers and enlisted personnel since 1935.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Gen. Debold Sinas, also congratulated Sobejana who is his “mistah” (classmate) in the PMA.
“On behalf of the PNP and all alumni of the PMA “Hinirang” Class of 1987, I extend my warmest congratulations to PA commanding general, Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, on his designation as the 55th Chief of Staff of the AFP,” he said.
Sinas said that Sobejana’s “heroic exploits” on the battlefield should inspire the younger breed of military and police officers to emulate the incoming AFP chief’s exemplary service that merited him the MOV.
“Gen. Sobejana brings with him the finest qualities of leadership to assume command of the AFP at this most critical point when the government is facing its greatest challenge and opportunity to end communist insurgency in the Philippines,” he added. (with reports from Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)