A Medal for Valor awardee formally assumes leadership of the Philippine Army on August 4, 2020.
In a Change of Command Ceremony, National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, led the turnover of leadership from newly-installed Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay to Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana.
“We are gathered here to witness this event, the changing of the guard of the Philippine Army, the premiere service of the AFP,” addressed Lorenzana. “Expectations will be high on both. The Command will be looking at the new Commander for leadership and inspiration. The Commander on the other hand will be expecting no less than full cooperation from his men,” he added.
Known for his combat exploits, Sobejana started his military career in 1983 and graduated as a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Hinirang” Class of 1987. He is considered as one of the country’s living heroes, being a recipient of the Medal of Valor, the highest military honor bestowed for demonstrating bravery and sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty when he fought Abu Sayyaf terrorists in 1995. He commanded different units of the Army most notably the 1st Scout Ranger Company and the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion where both units were adjudged as Best Company and Best Battalion, respectively during his stint. He also served as the Commandant of the Scout Ranger Training School, First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR); and as Commander of the Civil-Military Operations Group. He later served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, G3, PA and then commanded the 601st Infantry Brigade, the Joint Task Force “Sulu”, and the 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division. In 2013, he was sent in the truce line between Syria and Israel as the first Filipino to become the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. Prior to his assumption as Army Commanding General, he served as Commander of the Western Mindanao Command since June 2019.
In May 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte bestowed him the award of Philippine Legion of Honor (Degree of Officer), for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service rendered to the Philippine government, particularly to the Armed Forces of The Philippines. And in July 2019, the first parliament of Bangsamoro Transition Authority of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region In Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) passed resolution NR 18, commending Sobejana for his unwavering support in the peace process and commitment in bringing peace in the Bangsamoro Homeland.
During the event, Gapay is awarded the Outstanding Achievement Medal for his service and accomplishments during his stint as the 61st CGPA. Under his leadership, the command was able to consistently support Executive Order No. 70 by pursuing terrorists and securing communities, resulting to 328 armed encounters against Communist Terrorist Groups (CTG) and Local Terrorist Groups (LTG); neutralization of 205 terrorists; recovery of 1,231 assorted firearms; dismantling of seven guerilla fronts and five regional guerilla units; and surrender of 3,296 CTG/LTG members. Additionally, the PA Comprehensive Mental Health Program and the PA Mental Health and Resilience Center were launched to promote the mental well-being of active and retired Army personnel. In response to the COVID19 situation in the country, the command deployed 21,075 regular troops, CAFGU active auxiliaries, and reservists to assist the Inter Agency Task Force on implementing the guidelines on community quarantine. The Army also cooperated with the Department of Agriculture and the Tarlac Heritage Foundation in launching the Army Green Camps Program that promotes sustainability amid the economic impact of the pandemic. Recently, the Army opened the Molecular Laboratory that will mostly cater to COVID-19 testing among personnel and dependents.
“I am grateful to all of you, and it has been an honor to serve as your Commanding General. You have my full trust and confidence that the whole Army and its stakeholders will support you as they have supported me,” said Gapay.
Sobejana in his speech emphasized the Army’s key role in maintaining peace and hampering terrorism through the Anti-Terrorism Law. “The attainment of peace is a collaborative people-empowered undertaking. It must involve the commitment and support of the community, the government, the private sector, including our stakeholders and other members of the uniformed service, all working to attain the common good and interest and service of others.”
“As soldiers of the Republic of the Philippines, we are public servants; the protector of the Filipino people and defenders of our territory. We must do our job,” closed Sobejana.