Cirilito E. Sobejana
55th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
In office
4 February 2021 – 31 July 2021
PresidentRodrigo Duterte
Preceded byGen. Gilbert I. Gapay
Succeeded byLt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr.
Chief of the Philippine Army
In office
4 August 2020 – 4 February 2021
PresidentRodrigo Duterte
Preceded byLt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay
Succeeded byLt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr.
Personal details
Born
Cirilito Elola Sobejana

(1965-07-31) 31 July 1965 (age 56)[1]
Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental, Philippines
Awards
Medal of Valor
Philippine Legion of Honor
Military service
Allegiance Philippines
Branch/service Philippine Army
Years of service1987–2021
Rank
General
CommandsChairman of the Joint Chiefs
Chief of the Army
AFP Western Mindanao Command
6th Infantry Division
Joint Task Force Sulu
601st Infantry Brigade, 6 ID
Army Civil-Military Operations Group
3rd Scout Ranger Battalion, FSSR
1st Scout Ranger Company, FSRR
Battles/warsCommunist rebellion in the Philippines
Moro conflict
UNDOF, Golan Heights
United Nations Mission in East Timor

General Cirilito Elola Sobejana is a retired Filipino General who served as the 55th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines[2] and a known recipient of the Philippines' highest military award for courage, the Medal of Valor.[3] He served as commander of the AFP Western Mindanao Command from June 28, 2019 to August 4, 2020[4] and Chief of the Army from August 4, 2020 to February 4, 2021. He served as the former commander of the 6th Infantry Division in 2018,[5] and the Joint Task Force Sulu in 2017.[6][7][8] He was chief of staff of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in 2013.[1][9][10]

Military education

Sobejana is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1987.[11] He finished his Command and General Staff Course at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Command and General Staff College and underwent the Executive Course on National Security Administration at the National Defense College of the Philippines. He also holds a Masters in Public Administration degree and a fellow on corporate governance.[1]

He is a Scout Ranger-trained General, and is also a qualified member of the Special Forces, specialized in special operations. He is also a trained paratrooper and a scuba diver. He also trained in CBRN defense in Sweden and is a graduate of the Operations Research Systems Analysis Course at the US Army Logistics Management College in Fort Lee, Virginia. He completed the Advance Security Cooperation course at Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Honolulu, Hawaii.[1]

He also attended seminars and workshops in Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.

Military service

Then-Colonel Sobejana points at his reconstructed right arm while visiting Tripler Army Medical Center in 2015
Then-Colonel Sobejana points at his reconstructed right arm while visiting Tripler Army Medical Center in 2015
Then-Brigadier General Sobejana in May 2017
Then-Brigadier General Sobejana in May 2017
Lieutenant General Sobejana speaking at the 44th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS) Virtual Conference
Lieutenant General Sobejana speaking at the 44th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS) Virtual Conference

Sobejana has been a company and battalion commander of Scout Ranger units. He was once Commandant of the Scout Ranger School and Commander of the Civil-Military Operations Group (now Civil-Military Operations Regiment) of the Philippine Army. His other various billets include: Deputy Operations and Training Officer of the 1st Scout Ranger Regiment, Head of the Plans, Policies and Materiel Development Division of the Army Support Command, Chief of the Firepower Division at the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, J4, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Executive Officer of the Army Resource Management Office, and the Deputy Chief to the Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations, G7, Philippine Army. He was deployed under the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNMISET) as a military observer in 2003 until 2004.[1]

He rose through the ranks until he commanded the 602nd Infantry Brigade of the 6th Infantry Division, the Joint Task Force Sulu, the 6th Infantry Division in May 2018, and the AFP Western Mindanao Command in June 2019. During his stints as commander of various units in the Army, his units earned recognition during his command, such as the 1st Scout Ranger Company, named as Best Company in 1994; 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion, awarded as the Best Battalion in 2009; 601st Infantry Brigade, named the Best Brigade in 2016; and 6th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, awarded as the Best Division in 2018.[12] Throughout his career, he also showcased his belief, that everyone can be moved to the principle of the quote "Ang taong masaya ay maraming magagawa" (Happy is a man who does a lot of things).[13]

During his command in the AFP Western Mindanao Command, he led the search and rescue operations for the kidnapping of Allan Arthur Hylons, a British businessman, and his wife, Wilma Hylons, a Filipina, as the couple was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf Group in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur. They were rescued 2 months later after a firefight between the AFP and the ASG in Sulu.[14] He was awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor with a degree of Officer for his leadership and meritorious conduct and service. He was also commended by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority Parliament for his overwhelming support in the peace process and overall peace developments in the Bangsamoro Region

On July 29, 2020, he was named as the new Chief of the Army, replacing Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, as General Gapay takes his helm as the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on August 3, 2020.[15] He took helm as the Chief of the Army, the highest ranking officer in the Philippine Army, on August 4, 2020.

On January 27, 2021, he was named as the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and replaced General Gilbert Gapay on February 4, 2021.[16] He was confirmed for promotion to General by the Commission on Appointments on 24 March 2021, and earned his fourth star on 14 April 2021.[17][18]

As the AFP Chief, he vowed to modernize the AFP, secure the country's interests and protect the country's sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, amidst the heightened tensions in the area, due to the presence of over 200 ships, primarily from the People's Armed Forces Maritime Militia and the People's Liberation Army Navy, as China continues to deploy its ships in the disputed seas.[19] One noted example is the deployment of three Type 22 missile boats near the Second Thomas Shoal on April 2021.[20] [21] In response, he and President Duterte ordered the deployment of additional AFP assets, particularly ships and aircraft, along with the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to the West Philippine Sea.[22] [23] [24] He also protested against the proposed Cost Guard Law from China, which enables the Chinese Coast Guard to open fire on any ship that trespasses the disputed waters.[25] [26] Sobejana also vowed to intensify efforts against terrorism, while promoting economic development in the area, due to the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law, which was signed into law last 2020.[27] [28]

He retired from military service on July 31, 2021, and was replaced by then-Commander of the Joint Task Force Mindanao (JTF Mindanao), Lieutenant General Jose Faustino Jr.[29][30]

Action against the Abu Sayyaf

Sobejana was a newly minted Captain in 1995 when the platoon he was leading engaged a group of 20 Abu Sayyaf guerrillas in Isabela, Basilan. The Abu Sayyaf reinforced their comrades until Sobejana's unit was facing approximately 150 enemies. After two hours spent trading fire with the Moro insurgents, Sobejana sustained two bullet wounds to his right forearm; a third bullet wrecked his rifle. His arm was almost severed; he had to bite his right thumb to keep the arm from falling off. He then switched to firing left-handed while giving his men directions.[31] The firefight ended after four hours with Sobejana being wounded three more times.[32]

He refused to have his arm amputated and underwent several surgical procedures in the United States.[11] He underwent initial surgery at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii; he would ultimately spend 10 months there, undergoing operations and reconstructive surgery. He was then transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where he underwent rehabilitation.[33]

He recovered the use of his hand and arm and has remained in active service since then. For his actions he was conferred the Medal of Valor in 1996.

Medal of Valor citation

CAPTAIN CIRILITO E SOBEJANA O-9786 PA
Isabela, Basilan - 13 January 1995

"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.

By this gallantry, CAPTAIN SOBEJANA distinguished himself in combat, in keeping with the finest traditions of the Filipino soldiery."[34]

Awards and decorations

Aside from the Medal of Valor, Sobejana is the recipient of the Distinguished Conduct Star, eleven Distinguished Service Stars, the Gold Cross, three Bronze Cross Medals, the Wounded Personnel Medal, thirty three Military Merit Medals and seven Commendation Medals. He was recognized as an Outstanding Philippine Soldier in the Combat Category in 1995. He received the Award of Excellence for Public Service and the Plaque of Commendation from Roel Degamo, the Governor of his province, Negros Oriental, in 2012, and in 2021, respectively.[1][35]

Left Side:

Badges Combat Commander's Badge
1st row Medal of Valor
2nd row Chief Commander, Philippine Legion of Honor Officer, Philippine Legion of Honor 1 Distinguished Conduct Star
3rd row 11 Distinguished Service Stars with two bronze anahaw clusters 1 Gold Cross Medal 1 Meritorious Achievement Medal
4th row 1 Distinguished Service Medal 2 Chief of Staff of the AFP Commendation Medal 1 Gawad sa Kaunlaran
5th row 3 Bronze Cross Medals 1 Wounded Personnel Medal Military Merit Medals with four spearhead devices (33 total medals)
6th row Military Merit Medals with four silver and one bronze anahaws (33 total medals) 2 Military Civic Action Medals with one bronze anahaw 1st Parangal sa Kapanalig ng Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas Medal
7th row 2nd Parangal sa Kapanalig ng Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas Medal 7 Military Commendation Medals with one silver and one bronze triangular clasps United Nations Service Medal
8th row UN Mission in East Timor Medal with Numeral 2 Device Disengagement Observer Force Medal 3 Long Service Medal with two campaign stars
9th row 4 Anti-dissidence Campaign Medal with three campaign stars 4 Luzon Anti-Dissidence Campaign Medal with three campaign stars 4 Visayas Anti-Dissidence Campaign Medal with three campaign stars
10th row 5 Mindanao Anti-Dissidence Campaign Medal with four campaign stars Jolo and Sulu Anti-Dissidence Campaign Medal Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Operations Ribbon

Right Side:

1st row Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation
2nd row People Power I Unit Citation People Power II Unit Citation Martial Law Unit Citation

Badges and Other Awards:

Personal life

Cirilito Sobejana is married to Edna Sobejana (née Iturriaga). They have five children: Mae Suzanne, Mae Suzzette, Sheena Joy, Sean Jayson, and Siegfried Joshua.[1] He currently lives in a peaceful and simple life at his hometown in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g UNDOF (14 January 2013). "The new Chief of Staff UNDOF". Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  2. ^ Aguilar, Krissy (2021-01-27). "Cirilito Sobejana is next AFP chief – Palace". INQUIRER.net. Retrieved 2021-01-27.
  3. ^ Fonbuena, Carmela (20 December 2017). "FAST FACTS: List of Medal of Valor awardees and their privileges". Rappler. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Sobejana to assume as WESMINCOM chief June 28: AFP".
  5. ^ Wakefield, Francis (27 May 2018). "Sobejana named as new commander of Army's 6th Infantry Division". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  6. ^ Fonbuena, Carmela (8 March 2017). "5 operations vs Abu Sayyaf that won medals for soldiers". Rappler. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  7. ^ Philippine News Agency (6 March 2017). "Medal of Valor awardee Army Colonel vows to finish Abu Sayyaf". Update.ph. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  8. ^ Reyes, Victor (14 February 2017). "Valor awardee heads fight vs Abu Sayyaf in Sulu". Malaya. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Sobejana is next Army chief". Rappler. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  10. ^ Mangosing, Frances (2020-07-29). "Philippine Army to have new chief in Wesmincom commander Sobejana". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  11. ^ a b Soliven, Max V. (25 August 2005). "Not all men of valor got a medal: We must honor those who did". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  12. ^ "COMMANDING GENERAL, PHILIPPINE ARMY". www.army.mil.ph. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  13. ^ Alipala, Julie S. (29 July 2021). "AFP chief Sobejana rules out civilian post upon retirement". INQUIRER.net.
  14. ^ "DND hails AFP for rescue of British couple; no ransom paid". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  15. ^ "Army commander Gapay is next AFP chief". cnn. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  16. ^ Soberano, Analy (2021-02-04). "Army chief Lt.Gen. Cirilito Sobejana uupo na bilang ika-55th AFP chief of staff ngayong araw". bomboradyo.com (in Tagalog). Retrieved 2021-02-04.
  17. ^ "CA confirms Sobejana as 4-star general – The Manila Times". www.manilatimes.net. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  18. ^ "AFP Chief gets 4th Star, 3 Officers promoted to higher rank". www.afp.mil.ph. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  19. ^ "Philippine military chief visits island in disputed waters". Reuters. 9 June 2021.
  20. ^ "PH probes reported Chinese attack craft's chase of Filipino civilian vessel in WPS". cnn.
  21. ^ Mangosing, Frances (1 April 2021). "3 China war vessels park at Panganiban Reef inside PH EEZ". INQUIRER.net.
  22. ^ "More ships sent to West PH Sea amid continuous Chinese incursion". Rappler.
  23. ^ "Defense chief vows more navy, coast guard ships in West Philippine Sea". Rappler.
  24. ^ "PCG drives away Chinese Navy ship from Marie Louise Bank in WPS". www.pna.gov.ph.
  25. ^ "New China coast guard law 'alarming,' 'very irresponsible,' AFP chief says". cnn.
  26. ^ "Navy deploys more in West PH Sea with new China Coast Guard law". Rappler.
  27. ^ "Sobejana gives his thumbs up to ATC's terrorist designations". Manila Bulletin.
  28. ^ https://www.dnd.gov.ph/Postings/Post/Sobejana%20to%20NPA%20rebels%20-%20Don%E2%80%99t%20miss%20opportunity%20to%20surrender/. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  29. ^ "General Sobejana bows out of military service". PIA.
  30. ^ "Sobejana bows out of military service; Faustino assumes post - UNTV News". UNTV News. 31 July 2021.
  31. ^ Dizon, Nikko (25 August 2014). "AFP heroes await full benefits under law". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  32. ^ Fonbuena, Carmela (20 December 2017). "LIVING HEROES: 5 Filipino soldiers who won the Medal of Valor". Rappler. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  33. ^ Allen, Ana (10 April 2015). "War hero revisits road to healing". Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  34. ^ Philippine Army. "Medal for Valor Awardees: CAPTAIN CIRILITO E SOBEJANA O-9786 PA". Archived from the original on 3 August 2014. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  35. ^ "Sobejana's nostalgic visit to Negros". Visayan Daily Star. 15 May 2021.