‘Misencounter’ between soldiers and police in Jolo kills 4

Marje Pelayo   •   June 30, 2020   •   1842

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — An alleged “misencounter” with police resulted in the death of four members of a Philippine Army intelligence unit in  Jolo, Sulu, on Monday afternoon (June 29).

In a statement, the Philippine Army confirmed that the fatalities were two intelligence officers and two enlisted personnel under the 11th Infantry Division who were on a mission to identify the location of known terrorists in the area. 

The PA said the team was flagged by members of the Jolo Municipal Police Station manning a checkpoint in front of Jolo Central Fire Station in Barangay Walled City, Jolo, Sulu. 

But even after properly identifying themselves, the police allegedly approached the soldiers and fired at them though the exact reasons behind the incident remain unknown. 

“We are yet to establish the motive of the police,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Western Mindanao Command. 

The Philippine Army has already requested a full-blown investigation on the incident.

“We also requested the NBI to investigate to ensure impartiality. We don’t want any escalation of hostilities out of the incident. Our interest is to know the facts and give justice,” he added.

While investigation is still ongoing, the Philippine Army has appealed to the public not to sensationalize the incident through social media or any other means.

“We will wait for the investigation to be completed,” Sobejena said. 

Meanwhile, Army Commanding General Lt.Gen. Gilbert Gapay said there were no altercations that transpired between the police and soldiers based on witnesses’ accounts.

Gapay assured, however, that there was no provocation on the part of the Army personnel that might have triggered the gunfight.

He clarified that it was not anti-drug operations thus no member of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency was involved.

“The Army grieves and condoles with the families of our fallen men. There will be no let up in our quest for truth and justice,” Gapay concluded.

Romeo Brawner Jr. named as new PH Army chief

Robie de Guzman   •   December 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Major General Romeo Brawner Jr. as the new commanding general of the Philippine Army, Malacañang announced.

“The Palace confirms that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has approved the designation of MGen Romeo S. Brawner Jr. as Commanding General of the Philippine Army,” the Palace said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We wish General Brawner all the best in his new assignment,” it added.

Brawner is the current commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.

He will take over the post from Lieutenant General Andres Centino, who is now the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Malacañang expressed confidence that Brawner “will continue the reform initiatives his predecessors pursued in order to transform the largest branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines into a more dynamic and more professional organization true to its mandate to serve our people and secure our nation.”

Brawner is a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Makatao Class of 1989.

He also served as acting commandant of cades at the PMA, spokesperson of the Joint Task Force Marawi at the height of the campaign against Islamic State-linked militants who laid siege in Marawi City in 2017.

He also served as the commander of the 103rd Brigade in Mindanao and served as Army spokesperson.

9 NPA members in Misamis Oriental surrender to the Philippine Army

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 23, 2021

A former NPA member leads the military to a stash or firearms.

Nine members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Misamis Oriental have surrendered to the Philippine Army.

The former rebels were members of the sub-regional committee of the NPA in North Central Mindanao Regional Command. They also surrendered 14 high-caliber firearms.

One of the rebel returnees, identified as alias Marga, said that lack of food pushed them to surrender to the government. She said there were times when 40 members had to share one can of sardines. They were also forbidden to visit their families.

Magpapaalam ka nang maayos, hindi ka papayagan. Kaya iyong iba naming kasama kadalasan talaga umuuwi nang hindi nagpapaalam dahil sa ganyang kalagayan, hindi ka papayagan. Wala kang kalayaan o demokrasya, (You will not be allowed to go home even if you asked properly. Because of it, some would just leave without permission. There is no freedom or democracy),” she said.

According to Lt.Col. Ricky Canatoy, commanding officer of the 58th Infantry Battalion, the combined efforts of the Philippine Army and the government contributed to the increasing number of returning rebels.

“Military action alone will not be enough to achieve or maintain long-term peace; engagement from line agencies, notably from local government units, is essential. Because of the close linkages among government agencies, hostile manpower and firearms have been steadily reduced,” he said.

The rebel surrenderers will receive financial and livelihood assistance under the Enhance Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the government.

Sobejana bows out of military service; Faustino assumes post

Maris Federez   •   August 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Cirilito Sobejana relinquished his post in a Retirement and Change of Command Ceremony on Saturday (July 31).

An AFP statement released Saturday said Sobejana bowed out of service as he reached the mandatory retirement age of 56, after spending over 38 years in the military.

Sobejana who is a Medal for Valor recipient, has been replaced by LtGen. Jose Faustino, the current commander of the Joint Task Force Mindanao, the statement said.

“My tenure as the 55th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has truly been full of challenges and trials; but together with more than the 200,000-strong men and women of the AFP whose tenacity, strength, and heart have made us overcome all odds,” Sobejana said in his farewell speech.

He also expressed his respect and gratitude to all the personnel in the military forces for their invaluable service.

“I have only the highest respect and admiration for our soldiers who have, and continuously, dedicated the best years of their lives in the name of public service. Sa lahat ng sundalo ng ating Sandatahang Lakas, taas-noo at buong puso ang aking pasasalamat sa inyong walang katapat na serbisyo,” he added.

Sobejana spent most of his military career in Mindanao where he commanded different AFP units as he rose the ranks since graduating from the Philippine Military Academy in 1987.

Prior to his stint as the AFP Chief of Staff, Sobejana assumed the post of Army Commanding General and the Commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

In May 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte bestowed him the Award of Philippine Legion of Honor (Degree of Officer), for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service rendered to the Philippine government, particularly to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

He received another Philippine Legion of Honor (Degree of Chief Commander) for “laudable and meritorious conduct in the performance of his duties as the 55th Chief of Staff,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, incoming AFP Chief of Staff LtGen. Faustino called on the men and women in the military to stay united and committed to providing service to the country.

“It is my belief that the true measure of a Filipino soldier is not in the badge or rank we wear, not about the position we attain or appointed to. It is the loyalty and integrity of every man and woman serving the AFP that will keep us going in the right direction,” Faustino said.

“As I embark on this new journey with each and every one of you belonging to Team AFP, allow me to say to every soldier, airman, sailor, and marine– let us stay positive on the course ahead, bind together as one family, commit with open minds, participate actively, work towards the attainment of our shared goals, develop good ideas and innovate to suit our domain,” he added.

Prior to his designation as AFP chief, Faustino was appointed as the Commander of JTF Mindanao in June, following a successful stint as the Acting Commanding General of the Philippine Army.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy “Maringal” Class of 1988, he likewise had been Battalion and Brigade Commander in Western Mindanao particularly in Basilan and Sulu, the statement said.

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