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Southern Luzon commander is new Army chief

Pia Ranada
(UPDATED) Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay will take the reins of the Philippine Army on December 6, upon the retirement of Lieutenant General Macairog Alberto

NEW JOB. SOLCOM chief Lt General Gilbert Gapay is the next Philippine Army chief. Photo from Southern Luzon Command, AFP Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte has named the general on top of anti-insurgency operations in Bicol, Mimaropa, and Calabarzon as the next Philippine Army chief.

Duterte has picked Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, chief of the military’s Southern Luzon Command, to take over the post, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Rappler on Wednesday, December 4.

Gapay’s appointment becomes effective on December 6, the retirement date of current Army chief Lieutenant General Macairog Alberto.

“He is competent. He went through all the army commands up to area command. I am sure he will perform well as army chief,” said Lorenzana.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said in a statement that during Gapay’s time as Solcom commander, key communist leaders were neutralized and the armed capability of the New People’s Army was “significantly reduced.” Solcom’s operations also supposedly led to a spike in NPA surrenderees in the 3 regions.

Gapay was instrumental in implementing Duterte’s Executive Order No 70, which spells out the government’s strategy to end armed communist conflict through a local approach. Calabarzon’s Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict was the first regional task force created following the EO.

In the days leading to his appointment, Gapay has been busy with relief and rescue operations for Typhoon Tisoy (Kammuri), which affected Bicol, his command’s area of operation.

Davao connection. Gapay also had the chance to serve in the President’s hometown, Davao City. In December 2016, he became Eastern Mindanao Command deputy commander. During this time, he led the Joint Task Force Haribon, in charge of securing the Mega Davao area after the September 2016 bombing of the Roxas night market.

He was also in charge of security at the launch of the Philippines’ chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held in Davao City in 2017.

Gapay was topnotcher of his class at the Philippine Military Academy, the powerful Sinagtala Class of 1986. His classmates include former police chiefs Ronald dela Rosa, Oscar Albayalde, and PNP officer-in-charge Archie Gamboa.

Gapay also served as commander of the army’s Mechanized Division. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.