President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr., the current commander of the joint task force in Mindanao, as the next chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, vice Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Malacañang said Friday.
“We confirm that President Duterte approved and signed the designation of Lt. Gen. Jose C. Faustino, Jr. as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines effective July 31, 2021,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
He said the incoming military chief was expected to help ensure national security as well as pursue the AFP modernization program.
“We are confident that Gen. Faustino will continue the peace and development efforts of his predecessors while aggressively building up our defense capability. We pray for Gen. Faustino’s success as he embarks in his new role as AFP Chief,” he added.
Faustino, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1988, previously served as acting chief of the Philippine Army.
Meanwhile, when Sobejana retires today (Saturday), he will turn over his government-issued M-653 Baby Armalite Rifle which he used in many combat operations for nearly three decades.
“It was this weapon I used in 27 gun battles against the rebels and terrorists, particularly the Abu Sayyaf on that fateful day of Friday the 13 th 1995 in Matarling, Basilan where I was seriously wounded,” Sobejana said in an exclusive interview with Ben Cal, a former defense reporter, a day before his mandatory retirement on reaching 56 years old. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
As AFP chief of staff, Sobejana sustained the government’s fight against terrorists and rebels without let-up.
Sobejana also thanked the soldiers for their heroism and sacrifice in preserving the republic during these crucial times.
As an Army Scout Ranger, who specialized in jungle fighting, Sobejana saw actions “in various parts of the country in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao where there are insurgents and terrorists operating, after I was discharged from the hospitals of the serious wounds I sustained during the fighting in Basilan in 1995.”
Sobejana used his left hand to fire the Baby Armalite during gun battles with the enemies of the state. He also used his left hand to salute. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
Earlier this week, on Wednesday, Sobejana visited the spot in Sitio Sweet Jackal in Matarling, Basilan where he was seriously wounded during a five-hour close-quarter gun battle between his 16-man Army Scout Rangers against more than 150 Abu Sayyaf terrorists 26 years ago.
That armed clash earned Sobejana, then a captain, the Medal for Valor, the highest military award for bravery in combat.
“It was a nostalgic visit,” Sobejana said in a text message to Cal when asked what he felt during his sentimental trip to the island of Basilan where the Abu Sayyaf secretly hid for
six years before they were uncovered by Sobejana and his men after a 9-year old boy reported to the soldiers the presence of heavily armed men in the area.
When Sobejana arrived at the spot where the fighting took place on that unforgettable Friday the 13th in 1995, he recalled how his men, including two Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) gallantly stood their ground without stepping back.
Sobejana vowed to build a monument at the site of the encounter in honor of the brave soldiers and civilian armed group who fought the Abu Sayyaf on Jan. 13, 1995.
It was in this encounter when the AFP uncovered for the first time the existence of the clandestine terrorist group hiding in Basilan since 1989.