Army head Sobejana is next AFP chief

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 27) — Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the commanding general of the Philippine Army, will soon take over the helm of the armed forces, Malacañang said Wednesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte has chosen Sobejana to succeed Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay, who will retire on February 4. The Palace has yet to release a copy of Sobejana’s appointment paper, but confirmed the news in a statement.

"We are confident that General Sobejana will continue to modernize our military and undertake reform initiatives to make the Armed Forces truly professional in its mandate as the protector of the people and the State,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Gapay served the post for six months, while Sobejana replaced him as head of the military’s Western Mindanao Command.

Sobejana will lead the AFP for nearly six months or until July 31, the day he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56. This will give Duterte another chance to appoint the country’s top soldier.

Sobejana, a member of the PMA “Hinirang” Class of 1987, is a recipient of the highest military award, the Medal of Valor, for leading troops in a deadly clash with over a hundred Abu Sayyaf fighters in 1995.

He is the first Medal of Valor awardee to be named AFP chief in more than seven decades.

Sobejana has received several other accolades in his more than 30 years of service. In 2019, Duterte awarded him the prestigious Philippine Legion of Honor for his public service.

CNN Philippines' David Santos contributed to this report.