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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - New Philippine military chief assures respect for rule of law in fight against terror
MANILA: A new Philippines military chief has vowed the army will respect human rights and the rule of law as it “moves fast” to destroy communist groups and Daesh-inspired militant outfits in the country.
In his assumption speech on Thursday, Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the incoming Philippines armed forces commander, urged Filipinos to be one with the soldiers fighting against the “real enemies.”
“Rest assured that your soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines will do their job while following the rule of law, giving due respect to human rights and strictly adhering to international humanitarian law,” Sobejana said.
“We are living in times of unprecedented challenges, and are facing enemies from left and right, visible and invisible, not to mention the threat posed by calamities both natural and man-made,” he added.
Sobejana said that peace was a “collaborative project” that required commitment, dedication and support from the military, civil government and the people.
“We will adopt a whole-of-nation approach to end local armed conflict. Through this convergence we will nurture the concept of peace and progress,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who led the ceremony, said that Sobejana, with the help of the government and armed forces, could address multiple threats confronting the country.
“I am confident that under Lt. Gen. Sobejana’s leadership, the armed forces will achieve even more milestones in the campaign against insurgency and terror, and put an end to all threats to our national security,” Duterte said.
The president said that the country’s military had the government’s full support to improve its welfare and upgrade its capabilities to ensure national security.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that Sobejana’s outstanding record as a military officer had prepared him for the leadership role.
“Having personally seen and experienced the adverse effects of armed conflicts, Lt. Gen. Sobejana is a strong advocate for peace and development,” Lorenzana said.
Among his many distinctive qualities, Sobejana always salutes with his left hand.
The reasons are a source of pride for both the military and its new boss.
Sobejana’s right arm was severely injured during a battle with militants from the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Basilan province of the Philippines in 1995, when he was serving as a captain.
“That is why I salute using my left hand. I write with my left even though I am right-handed. I could raise my right hand, but it’s not 100 percent functional,” he said in a TV interview.
For his heroic act, Sobejana was awarded the country’s highest military award, the Medal for Valor.
“We will continue to fight insurgency to win peace for the country. I had several gunshot wounds, and I turned those wounds into wisdom rather than anger,” an army statement said, quoting Sobejana.
Sobejana has also been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Star and Gold Cross Medal.
He succeeds Gen. Gilbert Gapay, who recently retired.
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