Cirilito Sobejana
GEN Cirilito E. Sobejana.jpg
55th Chief of Staff of the
Armed Forces of the Philippines
Birth nameCirilito Elola Sobejana
Born (1956-07-31) July 31, 1956 (age 66)
Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental, Philippines
Allegiance Philippines
Branch Philippine Army
Years of service1987–2021
Rank
PA GEN Svc.svg
General
Commands heldChief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
Commanding General of the Philippine Army
Western Mindanao Command
6th Infantry Division
Joint Task Force Sulu
601st Infantry Brigade
3rd Scout Ranger Battalion, FSSR
1st Scout Ranger Company, FSRR
Awards
Philippine Medal of Valor ribbon.jpg
Medal of Valor
PHI Legion of Honor 2003 Chief Commander BAR.svg
Philippine Legion of Honor
Alma materPhilippine Military Academy (BS)
Spouse(s)Edna Iturriaga
Children5

Cirilito Elola Sobejana (born July 31, 1956) is a retired Philippine Army general who served as the 55th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte. He is also known for having been awarded the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medal of Valor in 1995 for his valiant actions in Basilan against the extremist guerrilla group Abu Sayyaf.[1][2]

Sobejana was also appointed the Commanding General of the Philippine Army from August 2020 to February 2021. Prior to that, he served as commander of the Western Mindanao Command from June 2019 to August 2020, of the 6th Infantry Division in 2018, and of the Joint Task Force Sulu in 2017.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

Education

Sobejana graduated from the Philippine Military Academy as part of the Hinirang Class of 1987. 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. The general underwent the Scout Ranger Regiment Course and was a qualified member of the Special Forces. He has also trained as a paratrooper and a scuba diver.

Internationally, Sobejana trained in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (CBRN defense) in Sweden and in operations research systems analysis at the US Army Logistics Management College in the United States. He also completed the Advance Security Cooperation course at Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, Hawaii.[11]

Military career

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
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 undertook various positions throughout his military career including Commandant of the Scout Ranger School and Commander of the Civil-Military Operations Group, 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, Executive Officer of the Army Resource Management Office, and Deputy Chief to the Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations G7. From 2003 to 2004, he was deployed to the United Nations Mission in East Timor as a military observer.

Rising through the ranks, Sobejana eventually served as commander of the 602nd Infantry Brigade, the Joint Task Force Sulu, the 6th Infantry Division, and then the Western Mindanao Command.

Under his leadership, his units earned recognition: the 1st Scout Ranger Company was named Best Company in 1994, the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion the Best Battalion in 2009, the 601st Infantry Brigade the Best Brigade in 2016, and 6th Infantry Division the Best Division in 2018. He attributes the successes of his troops to his personal mantra "Ang taong masaya [ay] maraming magagawa (A happy man does many things)."[12][13]

Western Mindanao Command

As commander of the Western Mindanao Command, Sobejana notably led the search and rescue operations of British businessman Allan Hyrons and his Filipino wife, Wilma in October 2019. The couple was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in Zamboanga del Sur and was rescued in November of that year in Sulu. British special forces provided support during the operation.[14][15]

Sobejana was accorded the rank of Pinuno (Officer) of the Philippine Legion of Honor for his leadership and meritorious conduct and service. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority Parliament also commended the general for his overwhelming support in the peace process and overall peace developments in the Bangsamoro Region

Commanding General of the Philippine Army

On August 4, 2020, Sobejana was appointed Commanding General of the Philippine Army by President Rodrigo Duterte. He took over from then Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, as the later was promoted to Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.[16]

Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines

On January 27, 2021, Sobejana again succeeded General Gilbert Gapay as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. His concurrent promotion to General was confirmed by the Commission on Appointments on March 24, 2021.[17][18][19]

As chief of staff, Sobejana vowed to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines, secure the country's interests, and protect the country's sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea amidst the heightened tensions in the area. The deployment of three Type 22 missile boats near the Second Thomas Shoal in April 2021 by Chinese forces was met with the deployment of Philippine military assets by the general, particularly ships and aircrafts, along with the Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, to the West Philippine Sea. He protested against the proposed Coast Guard Law from China, enabling them to open fire on any ship that enter the disputed waters.[20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29]

In March 2021, the attention of General Sobejana was called by the Commission on Appointments regarding the questionable appointment of then Lieutenant General Jose Faustino Jr as Acting Commanding General of the Philippine Army. Senator Panfilo Lacson cited Section 4 of Republic Act No. 8186 to challenge the appointment, even in an acting capacity. Upholding the precedence of the law, General Sobejana relieved Lieutenant General Faustino from his post.[30][31]

Sobejana retired from military service in July 2021. He was succeeded in his post as chief of staff by Lieutenant General Jose Faustino Jr.[32][33]

Awards and decorations

Armed Forces of the Philippines Medal of Valor

In 1995, then Captain Sobejana led his platoon in engaging a group of 20 Abu Sayyaf guerrillas in Isabela, Basilan. Abu Sayyaf reinforcements arrived until Sobejana's unit was facing approximately 150 combatants. After two hours spent trading fire, Sobejana sustained two bullet wounds to his right forearm and a third bullet wrecked his rifle. His arm was almost severed and he had to bite his right thumb to keep the arm from falling off. Sobejana then began to fire using his left hand while still directing his men. The firefight ended after four hours with Sobejana being wounded thrice more.[34][35]

Sobejana refused to have his arm amputated and underwent several surgical procedures in the United States. He underwent initial surgery at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii and would ultimately spend 10 months there undergoing further operations and reconstructive surgery. He was transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas for rehabilitation. He eventually recovered the partial use of his right hand and arm and remained in active service. For his valiant actions, he was conferred the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medal of Valor by President Fidel Ramos in 1996.[36]

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."[37]

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 Negros Oriental, the general's home province, in 2012 and in 2021 respectively.[8][38]

Left Side:

Combat Commander
Philippine Legion of Honor
Philippine Legion of Honor
Distinguished Conduct Star Ribbon Bar.png
PHL Distinguished Service Star BAR.svg
PHL Gold Cross.png
Noribbon.svg
Noribbon.svg
Noribbon.svg
PHL Gawad Sa Kaunlaran.gif
PHL Bronze Cross.gif
PHL Wounded Personnel.gif
PHL Military Merit Medal.gif
PHL Military Merit Medal.gif
Military Civic Action Medal
Parangal sa Kapanalig ng Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas
Parangal sa Kapanalig ng Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas
Military Commendation Medal
United Nations Service Medal
Transitional Administration in East Timor Medal ribbon.png
UNDOF Ribbon bar.gif
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Jolo Campaign Medal.png
Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Operations Ribbon
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:

Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation
People Power I Unit Citation
People Power II Unit Citation
Martial Law Unit Citation
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

Sobejana is married to Edna Iturriaga Sobejana. Together, they have five children, Mae Suzanne, Mae Suzzette, Sheena Joy, Sean Jayson, and Siegfried Joshua.[8]

Post his retirement from military service, the general returned to his hometown in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental.

References

  1. ^ Aguilar, Krissy (2021-01-27). "Cirilito Sobejana is next AFP chief – Palace". INQUIRER.net. Retrieved 2021-01-27.
  2. ^ Fonbuena, Carmela (20 December 2017). "FAST FACTS: List of Medal of Valor awardees and their privileges". Rappler. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  3. ^ "Sobejana to assume as WESMINCOM chief June 28: AFP". Philippine News Agency.
  4. ^ Wakefield, Francis (27 May 2018). "Sobejana named as new commander of Army's 6th Infantry Division". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  5. ^ Fonbuena, Carmela (8 March 2017). "5 operations vs Abu Sayyaf that won medals for soldiers". Rappler. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  6. ^ Philippine News Agency (6 March 2017). "Medal of Valor awardee Army Colonel vows to finish Abu Sayyaf". Update.ph. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  7. ^ Reyes, Victor (14 February 2017). "Valor awardee heads fight vs Abu Sayyaf in Sulu". Malaya. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  8. ^ a b c UNDOF (14 January 2013). "The new Chief of Staff UNDOF". Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  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. ^ 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. ^ "Kidnapped UK man and wife rescued after Philippines gun battle". BBC News. 25 November 2019.
  16. ^ "Army commander Gapay is next AFP chief". cnn. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "CA confirms Sobejana as 4-star general – The Manila Times". www.manilatimes.net. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  19. ^ "AFP Chief gets 4th Star, 3 Officers promoted to higher rank". www.afp.mil.ph. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  20. ^ "Philippine military chief visits island in disputed waters". Reuters. 9 June 2021.
  21. ^ "PH probes reported Chinese attack craft's chase of Filipino civilian vessel in WPS". cnn.
  22. ^ Mangosing, Frances (1 April 2021). "3 China war vessels park at Panganiban Reef inside PH EEZ". INQUIRER.net.
  23. ^ "More ships sent to West PH Sea amid continuous Chinese incursion". Rappler.
  24. ^ "Defense chief vows more navy, coast guard ships in West Philippine Sea". Rappler.
  25. ^ "PCG drives away Chinese Navy ship from Marie Louise Bank in WPS". www.pna.gov.ph.
  26. ^ "New China coast guard law 'alarming,' 'very irresponsible,' AFP chief says". cnn.
  27. ^ "Navy deploys more in West PH Sea with new China Coast Guard law". Rappler.
  28. ^ "Sobejana gives his thumbs up to ATC's terrorist designations". Manila Bulletin.
  29. ^ https://www.dnd.gov.ph/Postings/Post/Sobejana%20to%20NPA%20rebels%20-%20Don%E2%80%99t%20miss%20opportunity%20to%20surrender/. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  30. ^ "Sobejana: Faustino relieved from post of acting Army chief as per rule of law". GMA News Online. May 17, 2021.
  31. ^ Gonzales, Catherine (March 10, 2021). "Philippine Army commanding general not qualified for post, says Lacson". INQUIRER.net.
  32. ^ "General Sobejana bows out of military service". PIA.
  33. ^ "Sobejana bows out of military service; Faustino assumes post - UNTV News". UNTV News. 31 July 2021.
  34. ^ Dizon, Nikko (25 August 2014). "AFP heroes await full benefits under law". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  35. ^ Fonbuena, Carmela (20 December 2017). "LIVING HEROES: 5 Filipino soldiers who won the Medal of Valor". Rappler. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  36. ^ Allen, Ana (10 April 2015). "War hero revisits road to healing". Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ "Sobejana's nostalgic visit to Negros". Visayan Daily Star. 15 May 2021.
Military offices Preceded byLt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay Commanding General of the Philippine Army August 4, 2020–February 4, 2021 Succeeded byLt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr.as Acting Commanding General Preceded byGen. Gilbert Gapay Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines February 4, 2021–July 31, 2021 Succeeded byGen. Jose Faustino Jr.