CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City – The Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Gilbert Gapay will relinquish his post to Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana and will bow out of service in a Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony today, February 4, here.

General Gapay assumed as the 54th Chief of Staff and led the AFP in supporting the government's efforts in the COVID-19 pandemic, at the same time ensuring the military's health and wellness as it continues to perform its mandate, including the defeat of various armed threat groups.

He reported that a total of 1,303 members of the communist terrorist group were either killed, captured, or have voluntarily surrendered during his term. This includes 14 high-value individuals and 3,995 more withdrawing their support and membership to the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front.

There were also 778 firearms gained, either by confiscation or surrender, from the enemy, and 219 anti-personnel mines that were seized.

"With the support of local government units, non-government organizations and other government agencies through the NTF-ELCAC, we have gained significant ground in our operation against threats that are determined to undermine the peace and freedom that every Filipino truly deserves," General Gapay said.

Against local terrorist groups, the AFP under General Gapay recorded 231 members who were either killed, captured/apprehended, or have surrendered. There were also 178 firearms confiscated/surrendered.

He also carried over and pushed for his advocacy that addresses mental health issues of active and retired soldiers through the development of the Comprehensive Mental Health Program "that will provide goal-directed resilience and psychological interventions for both active and retired soldiers."

General Gapay also supervised the delivery of "big ticket" items in the AFP Modernization Program that was affected by the pandemic. Among the deliveries he oversaw were the Gulfstream G280 Command and Control Aircraft, the six Super Tucano close air support planes, and six of the sixteen S-70i Black Hawk choppers, among others.

"For the new equipment, mobility resources and firepower that are being used to guard our borders and to stop insurgency, the successes we have had in the area of soldiers’ welfare are all because we have a Commander-in-Chief whose generosity and concern for the soldiers is expressed not only in words, but in solid, concrete action," General Gapay added.

"Today, I am happier and prouder that the armed forces that I will be leaving behind is one with direction, with a roadmap that guides it to the destination it desires. A professional AFP that is genuinely transforming – one that is persevering to become truly world-class, one that the Filipino nation can and will be truly proud of. I feel very fulfilled to have made my humble contributions in this endeavor," General Gapay concluded.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Sobejana, the current Commanding General of the Philippine Army, is a Medal of Valor awardee and is only the third recipient of the award to have made the AFP's top post.

He was the former Commander of Western Mindanao Command, Joint Task Force Sulu, and 6th Infantry Division, units that primarily prevented the rise of violent extremism and terrorism in Mindanao post-Daesh and in the context of the Bangsamoro transition.

He also held various staff positions, such as Director, General Services of the Army Management Information Center; Head of the Plans, Policies, and Materiel Development Division of the Army Support Command; Chief of the Firepower Division at the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, J4; and Executive Officer of the Army Resource Management Office.

He also commanded various units that earned recognition during his stint. These include the 1st Scout Ranger Company, adjudged as Best Company in 1994; 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion, awarded as Best Battalion in 2009; 601st Infantry Brigade, named Best Brigade in 2016; and 6th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, awarded as Best Division in 2018.

Aside from the prestigious Medal of Valor, he is a recipient of the Distinguished Conduct Star, five Distinguished Service Stars, a Gold Cross Medal, a Philippine Legion of Honor (Degree of Officer), Military Achievement Medals, a Gawad sa Kaunlaran, six Bronze Cross Medals, a Wounded Personnel Medal (Purple Heart), several Military Merit Medals, and Commendation Medals.

In 1995, Lt. Gen. Sobejana was adjudged as the Outstanding Philippine Soldier (Combat Category). In February 1997, he was also awarded the PMA Cavalier Award, the highest recognition given by the PMA Alumni Association Incorporated to an alumnus who excels in his field.

Lt. Gen. Sobejana will now take on the challenge of sustaining the momentum of the AFP's operations, particularly in ending all armed threats before 2022 and in assisting the government COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.///