Army commander Gapay is next AFP chief

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 29) — The commanding general of the Philippine Army will soon take over the helm of the Armed Forces. 

President Rodrigo Duterte named Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay as the next chief of staff to succeed Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. who will retire on August 3.

Duterte informed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana about Gapay’s appointment on Tuesday through a document that was released to the media on Wednesday.

Santos was head of the Eastern Mindanao Command when Duterte chose him as AFP chief in January.

Meanwhile, Gapay will serve the post for six months until he retires on February 4, 2021.

“[W]e will continue to push for the modernization of our military to uphold our sovereignty and the integrity of our national territory,” Gapay said in a statement.

He took a swipe at critics of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act, the most challenged law at the Supreme Court with 21 petitions to date.

“Your AFP is a far cry from the grim picture being painted by those against the Anti-Terrorism Law," Gapay said. "Your AFP is your protector—not your enemy."

He stressed that Filipinos can rely on the Armed Forces amid the crisis brought by COVID-19, a deadly viral illness that has infected more than 85,000 people nationwide and killed nearly 2,000.

Like Santos, Gapay is a member of the Philippine Military Academy’s “Sinagtala” Class of 1986. He assumed as Army chief in December 2019 after leading the Eastern Mindanao Command.

Meanwhile, the post vacated by Gapay will be held by Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, who is currently head of the Western Mindanao Command.

Sobejana, a member of the PMA “Hinirang” Class of 1987, received the highest military award, the Medal of Valor, after leading a deadly encounter with over a hundred Abu Sayyaf fighters in 1995.