MANILA - Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay formally assumed Monday the top post of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, replacing Gen. Felimon Santos, Jr. who bowed out of the service upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.
“Today, as I assume the 54th Chief of Staff (of the) Armed Forces of the Philippines, I am making similar call on our fellow Filipinos to join us in our fight against terrorism, fear, deception and the pandemic,” Gapay said during the formal turn-over rites in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, presided by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
A member of the Philippine Military Class of 1986, Gapay was the commanding general of the Philippine Army prior to his assumption to the country’s top military post.
According to the AFP, under the leadership of Santos, it undertook humanitarian efforts in response to the Taal Volcano eruption and assist migrant Filipino workers in the Middle East affected by the US-Iran rift, and helped the government respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sustaining its operations against communist rebels and local terrorists, the military neutralized 3,808 members of the New People’s Army from Jan. 1 to July 30 this year, most of whom surrendered, the organization said.
A total of 885 firearms, 313 improvised explosive devices, and 164 encampments were also seized from the group during the period, the AFP reported.
From the Abu Sayyaf Group, 88 personalities were neutralized, while 60 firearms, seven IEDs and nine encampments were seized during the same period, according to the AFP.
President Rodrigo Duterte skipped the change-of-command ceremony due to an unspecified prior commitment somewhere else, the military’s spokesman had said. The event is traditionally presided by the country’s leader as the military’s commander-in-chief.
Duterte did not attend also the assumption ceremony for then AFP chief Gen. Noel Clement in September last year. Clement served until January this year.
Meanwhile, the new Army chief, vice Gapay, will be Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, a Medal of Valor awardee, whose last position is commander of the military’s Western Mindanao Command.