PRESIDENT Duterte on Wednesday named Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay as the next chief of the Armed Forces, replacing Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 next week.
Gapay’s designation takes effect on Monday when Santos turns 56 years. Santos assumed the top military post in January this year.
Gapay is the eighth AFP chief to be appointed by the Duterte since June 2016.
Gapay thanked the President “for his trust and confidence in giving me the opportunity to lead the Armed Forces of the Philippines in this trying time in our nation’s history.”
Gapay was apparently referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. The military is playing a key role in implementing community quarantine protocols to prevent the further spread of the virus.
Gapay said as AFP chief, he “will build on the gains of our predecessors whose labors made the AFP an able agent for the betterment of our people and country.”
“While the lessons of the past always remind us that our purpose is winning over challenges to best serve our people, we will uphold our mandate to protect and secure our country against external and internal threats. In doing so, we will remain accountable to the Filipino people,” he also said.
Gapay, a classmate of Santos at the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986, is due to reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on February 4 next year.
There was still no word on who will succeed Gapay as Army chief.
Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo earlier said the AFP’s Board of Generals recommended to the President 10 three-star generals as possible successors of Santos.
Arevalo also said Gapay, the valedictorian of PMA Class 1986, “rose steadily to the helm owing to his competencies in all domains of operations particularly operations, intelligence, civil military operations, education and training and just as important, resource management.”
“His attributes of integrity and competence, his vast experience, gained expertise, management acumen, and his genuine interest of people are his assets in leading the AFP at the height of the pandemic and the peak of counter-terrorism operations,” he added.
Before becoming the Army chief on December 6 last year, Gapay was commander of the AFP Southern Luzon Command based in Lucena City. He also served as commander of the Army’s Mechanized Infantry Division.
Gapay holds a master’s degree in management from the Philippine Christian University. He is a recipient of several awards and decorations, including Philippine Legion of Honor, four Distinguished Service Stars, four Gold Cross Medals for gallantry in action, and Outstanding Achievement Medal.
PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa, also from the PMA Class 1986, is also due to reach the retirement age of 56 on September 2.
On rumors that his term will be extended by the President, Gamboa just said: “I will just work and I submit to the wisdom of the President… I am here here at the disposal of government.”
On talks that he will be named NBI director, Gamboa reiterated he is “at the disposal of government.”