Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, a bemedalled general from Mindanao, officially took command of the Philippine Army (PA) on Tuesday.
Sobejana assumed the top Army post from Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, who is now the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in a turnover ceremony in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on Tuesday afternoon.
Prior to being designated as the Army chief, Sobejana was the commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) which has been dealing with some of the country’s most vicious insurgents and terrorist groups including the Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and various factions of the Dawlah Islamiyah.
In 1996, he was a recipient of the Medal of Valor, the highest military honor bestowed to AFP personnel who demonstrated bravery and sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty.
He obtained the award after he led his platoon to victory in a fierce firefight against 150 Abu Sayyaf Group militants in Basilan in 1995.
Although outnumbered, Sobejana, then a newly-minted captain, displayed extraordinary leadership which enabled his platoon to withstand the attack of the ASG and drive them away.
At one point, it was said that Sobejana had to bite his thumb to keep his right arm from being completely severed due to bullet wounds while firing shots on his left hand and giving orders to his men.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who presided over the change of command ceremony, said he expects Sobejana to bring his brand of leadership to the Army.
“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,” Lorenzana said, addressing Sobejana.
In his speech, Sobejana 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,” he said.
“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,” he added.