CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City-- The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines General Felimon Santos Jr will relinquish his post in a Change of Command and Retirement ceremony as he bows out of the military after over 38 years in the service.
He will be replaced by Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay in a closed ceremony at the AFP Commissioned Officers Country here Monday, August 3, presided by National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
After assuming as the AFP Chief of Staff in January, General Santos Jr's term has met challenges that have extensively broadened the scope of the military's responsibilities.
He was welcomed by the explosion of Taal Volcano on January 12, less than ten days since his assumption, and immediately mobilized assets and personnel to provinces stricken by the disaster. Up to 1,000 personnel and 100 assorted vehicles were deployed in the humanitarian efforts under the Joint Task Group Taal.
The AFP was also tasked to mobilize assets and personnel to assist in the evacuation of overseas Filipino workers in Middle East as relations between the US and Iran soured. Two Navy ships, BRP Ramon Alcaraz and BRP Davao Del Sur, were sent to Oman to assist in the repatriation mission.
General Santos Jr also led the AFP's response in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, which has now deployed over 1050 military and civilian doctors and nurses in different military treatment facilities and over 200 more in emergency quarantine facilities.
Over 14,213 soldiers were also deployed in quarantine assistance stations nationwide.
Despite these, the AFP, under the leadership of General Santos Jr, has sustained its gains in internal security operations against the communist and local terrorist groups.
A total of 3,808 New People's Army members and supporters were neutralized from January 1 to July 30 this year, including 134 that were killed and 150 that were apprehended in legitimate and intelligence-driven operations.
Over 3,524 of them surrendered including armed fighters, underground organization members, and other supporters.
Meanwhile a total of 885 high-powered and low-powered firearms, 313 IEDs, and 164 encampments were seized within the same period.
The AFP has also neutralized a total of 88 Abu Sayyaf Group personalities, 37 of whom were killed while 4 were apprehended in numerous military operations.
Notable also are the 47 who surrendered as a result of the intense military pressure we have exerted over the past five months. A total of 60 high-powered and low-powered firearms, seven IEDs, and nine encampments were also seized during the period.
The AFP's accomplishments so far this year is expected to be sustained with the assumption of Lt. Gen. Gapay, who promised to build on the gains of his predecessors.
"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," Lt. Gen. Gapay said.
"Whatever challenge lies ahead, be it territorial integrity, terrorism, the wrath of nature, or even infectious diseases, we shall not falter. Hindi magpapatinag ang inyong AFP," Lt. Gen. Gapay added.
A member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986, his leadership was first tested when he led the 23rd Light Armor Company and the 52nd Mechanized Infantry Company in Central Mindanao during the all-out war of year 2000.
He later served as Commander of 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, Joint Task Force Haribon, the Mechanized Infantry Division, and the Southern Luzon Command before becoming the Commanding General of the Philippine Army.
"To the men and women of the Armed Forces, our people needs you; they look up to you; they trust you—and we will not let them down. We shall carry out our tasks by exemplifying our brand of honor, service, and patriotism—for this is our lifeblood. They are what makes us the AFP," Lt. Gen. Gapay said.
"To our countrymen, continue to fight with us in the war against terrorism and the pandemic. Ang inyong Sandatahang Lakas ay ang inyong “lakas” na tapat sa sinumpaang tungkulin. Ang inyong suporta ay ang aming katatagan. Asahan niyo na kami ay kaagapay ng bawat Pilipino sa pagpapanatiling ligtas at payapa ng ating bansa," Lt. Gen. Gapay added.
Photo: SN1 VILUAN PN/ PAOAFP