Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay is next AFP Chief of Staff

Published July 29, 2020, 6:51 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

President Duterte has chosen Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, the Commanding General of the Philippine Army, as the next Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) effective August 3, 2020, it was learned on Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana shared to the media Gapay’s appointment paper dated Tuesday which was signed by the President.

“[T]he designation of Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay as Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines, vice General Felimon Santos Jr. is hereby APPROVED,” read part of Gapay’s appointment paper.

Gapay will succeed Santos, his “mistah” at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), at the helm of the military leadership. 

Santos is set for compulsory retirement on August 4 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 for military personnel. He will cap off 38 years of military service.

Gapay will be the 54th AFP Chief of Staff, and the eighth under Duterte’s administration since 2016.

In a statement, Gapay thanked Duterte “for his trust and confidence in giving me the opportunity to lead the Armed Forces of the Philippines in this trying time in our nation’s history.”

“While the lessons of the past always remind us that our purpose is winning over challenges to best serve our people, we will uphold our mandate to protect and secure our country against external and internal threats. In doing so, we will remain accountable to the Filipino people,” he said.

“Because of this, we will continue to push for the modernization of our military to uphold our sovereignty and the integrity of our national territory,” he added.

Under his leadership, Gapay also said that the AFP will be a “force committed to ensure peace, stability, and progress being denied by terrorists and their narratives.”

“Your AFP is a far cry from the grim picture being painted by those against the Anti-Terrorism Law.  Your AFP is your protector, not your enemy,” he stressed.

Gapay recently made headlines when he minced no words in condemning the fatal shooting of four Army intelligence operatives at the hands of nine police officers in Jolo, Sulu on June 29.

While the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership called the incident a “misencounter,” Gapay rejected it and branded it as a “rubout” and “murder.”

He was appointed as the 61st Commanding General of the Philippine Army on December 6, 2019.

He graduated on top of the PMA “Sinagtala” Class of 1986. 

Gapay has been serving for 34 years in various command and staff positions. He commanded various army units and confronted threats from the communist, secessionist, and other local terrorist groups.

Prior to being the Army chief, he also served as the commander of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM); the former Mechanized Infantry Division now called Armor “Pambato” Division; a pioneer of the Army Aviation Regiment; and Joint Task Force Haribon in Mega Davao.

He also commanded the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Lanao del Sur; 3rd
Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Central Luzon; 36th Infantry (Valor)
Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division in Agusan Province; 23rd Light Armor Company and the 52nd Mechanized Infantry Company in Central Mindanao.