Medal of Valor awardee Lt. Gen. Sobejana is next AFP chief

Philippine Army commanding general Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, a Medal of Valor awardee, was chosen by President Rodrigo Duterte to be next Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff.

Lieutenant General Sobejana will succeed AFP Chief-of-Staff General Gilbert Gapay who will reach mandatory age of retirement on February 4.

Sobejana’s Medal of Valor citation reads: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty during an encounter with about 150 Abu Sayyaf kidnap gang members at Sitio Caro, Barangay Lower Kapayawan, Isabela Basilan on 13 January 1995, while serving as Commanding Officer of the 1st Scout Ranger Company, First Scout Ranger Regiment, Philippine Army.

“When Task Group Panther received reports on the enemy concentration, it immediately dispatched one platoon under CAPTAIN SOBEJANA to check the area. While observing the reported location of enemy presence, he sighted about 20 armed enemies loitering near a cluster of houses. After assessing the situation, he directed his men to attack the enemy position which resulted to an ensuing fierce fire fight. Alerted by the incident, several Abu Sayyaf groups from nearby areas arrived to reinforce their comrades, cutting the troops from the supporting section. As the firefight raged, firepower and numerical superiority of the enemy became apparent as members of the First Scout Ranger Company incurred casualties.”

“After two hours of continuous fire fight, CAPTAIN SOBEJANA was hit in the lower arm as he went for the radio of a fallen soldier. Bravely holding his ground, he sustained a second bullet wound that almost severed his right arm. Still, he controlled all fire directions to best defend their position and repulse the encircling enemy. Though in pain and with a shattered rifle after it was hit by an enemy fire, he never lost composure and continued leading his men. He even maneuvered around, exposing himself to enemy fire to direct the encounter. After almost four hours of intense fighting, reinforcements from the Task Group Panther and the 4th Scout Ranger Company arrived to secure the area and evacuate the wounded. Report placed the enemy casualties at 30 killed and unconfirmed number of wounded.”

According to Philippine Army Lieutenant General Sobejana started his military career in 1983 and graduated as a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Hinirang” Class of 1987.

“He is considered as one of the country’s living heroes, being a recipient of the Medal of Valor, the highest military honor bestowed for demonstrating bravery and sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty when he fought Abu Sayyaf terrorists in 1995,” the Army said.

Sobejana commanded different units of the Army most notably the 1st Scout Ranger Company and the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion which where both adjudged as Best Company and Best Battalion, respectively, during his stint.

“He also served as the Commandant of the Scout Ranger Training School, First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR); and as Commander of the Civil-Military Operations Group. He later served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, G3, PA and then commanded the 601st Infantry Brigade, the Joint Task Force “Sulu”, and the 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division,” the Army said.

“In 2013, he was sent in the truce line between Syria and Israel as the first Filipino to become the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. Prior to his assumption as Army Commanding General, he served as Commander of the Western Mindanao Command since June 2019,” the Army added.