New AFP chief vows to defend Filipinos against all enemies

Incumbent Western Mindanao Command head Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez formally assumed as the 50th chief-of-staff of the 120,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) during the change of command ceremonies held in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Wednesday afternoon.

As he formally assumed command of the military, the new AFP chief-of- staff vowed to carry out his mission of defending the Filipinos from all enemies to best of his abilities.

“As I assume command of the Armed Forces, I now address my fellow officers, the men, women and civilian employees of the AFP. Our Commander-in-Chief has directed us to defend the Filipino people from all enemies of peace and democracy. With your unwavering support, (I) intend to carry this order to the best of my abilities,” he added.

Galvez also said that it is time to reconcile with “misguided Filipino brothers and sisters” and walk the path of peace.

“It is the time to rebuild and reconcile with our Filipino brothers and sisters. We must now walk the path of peace. I now extend to our misguided brothers and sisters a chance to end all conflict. Hundreds of our comrades have already (stacked) arms and abandoned your hopeless cause and they have seen by themselves that our government is a just and fair government,” the new AFP chief emphasized.

The new AFP chief also said violent extremism remains a threat as shown by the destructive fighting in Marawi City which was attacked by Maute Group terrorists in May 23 last year.

The five-month conflict in the city ended after the AFP neutralized Omar Maute, one of the leaders of the Maute Group, and Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS Emir in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, in October 2017.

“The Abu Sayyaf and other local terrorist groups have long held (communities) in the grip of terror. Daesh and ISIS and the Battle of Marawi have just very recently shown us how truly destructive violent extremism can be,” he added.

“We have won many battles but we have yet to win the war. Violent extremists and their corrupted ideology remain a threat, too much (blood) has been spilled, too many lives have been lost to terror and hate,” Galvez emphasized.

And while professional soldiers and sworn to protect every Filipinos, the newly-appointed AFP chief said that they are always prepare to pursue the path of peace.

“Hence we shall support all peace initiatives of the government, we shall more vigorously work hand in hand with government agencies, non-government organizations and other stakeholders to address the underlying cause of conflict. We shall keep our door open with all peaceful possibilities,” Galvez pointed out.

“Toward this end I enjoin all peace loving Filipinos most especially our Muslim brothers and sisters to stand with us in the fight against all forms of violent extremism. We will pursue with even more vigor our campaign to end insurgency and terrorism which with your help we will definitely win,” he added.

By working together, Galvez said the military and the public cause of insurgency irrelevant for it can only thrive where discord prevails.

“Together we shall defeat the Abu Sayyaf and all other terrorist group for terrorism only works when people are divided and afraid. Together we shall drive Daesh and other violent extremists from our shores for extremism dies in the light of a people united and strong,” he added.

Also, Galvez said he reiterated his full support to the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

“We look forward to the final peaceful political resolution of conflict in Mindanao, we will strengthen our existing peace mechanisms and revitalize the peace and development offices at the Unified Command levels to more effectively address the grievances of the people of Mindanao and create conditions for a just and lasting peace in the south,” he pointed out.

Galvez, a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985, replaced Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, a member of PMA Class of 1984, who was honored with a testimonial parade and review and the prestigious award of the Philippine Legion of Honor (Rank of Commander).

Guerrero was appointed as AFP chief last Oct. 26 replacing then AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año, who stepped down after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56. The former was supposed to retire on Dec. 17, 2017 but his term as AFP chief was extended by another four months by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Present during his assumption-of-command ceremonies were President Rodrigo Duterte, former presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and a host of ranking government officials. PNA