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MANILA, Philippines – Newly-installed Armed Forces chief of staff Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa vowed on Monday, Dec. 12, 2011, to continue the reforms within the military that his predecessor started, but stressed he would take “multi-disciplinary” approaches in dealing with local and external threats.
Dellosa became the AFP’s 43rd Chief-of-Staff, replacing Gen. Eduardo Oban who has reached the mandatory retirement age of 56. Until the start of Monday’s turnover ceremony, Dellosa’s appointment was kept from the public.
In his speech at the turnover rites, President Benigno Aquino III revealed knowning Dellosa for three decades now, particularly during the term of his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino.
As a captain then, Dellosa was commander of the special services unit of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and concurrent junior aide-de-camp of Mrs. Aquino, and helped defend Malacanang from mutineers during several coup attempts against her.
The PSG commander at the time was then Brig. Gen. Voltaire Gazmin, now defense secretary.
No less than the President narrated an event in Dellosa’s career, when the then young liuetenant sustained sharpnel wounds in his face while battling with rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Jolo, Sulu.
“Sa maraming pagsubok, nakita na po nating ang husay ni Jesse Dellosa. Umaasa ako na hindi ka nagbago at patuloy mong ipapapakita ang gilas mo,” Aquino said in what appeared to be an impromptu part of his keynote address.
There were at least nine other contenders for the plum AFP post, including two of Dellosa’s classmates in the Philippine Military Academy Class 1979 – AFP deputy chief of staff Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara and Navy chief Vice Adm. Alexander Pama.
The other three-star generals qualified to succeed Oban are AFP vice chief Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena, Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali, Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, Central Command chief Lt. Gen. Ralph Villanueva, Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero, and Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer.
Mapagu, Rabena, Detabali, Sabban, Villanueva, and Tabaquero are all members of the PMA class 1978, which includes former President Arroyo as an “adopted” member. Meanwhile, Ferrer is from the PMA class 1977 and is retiring in January 2012.
“Tapos na ang panahon kung kailan palakasan at pagpapapogi ang batayan ng pag-angat sa posisyon,” President Aquino said, apparently alluding to the jockeying for plum posts at the AFP, seen to be a common practice in the organization.
“Huwag mong talikuran ang mandato mo sa taumbanyan,” the President told Dellosa, urging him to continue implementing the reforms that Oban introduced.
Oban was named as AFP chief nine months ago, amid allegations of widespread corruption in the military.
The President lauded Oban for “turning the perception around” and consequently helping the the administration “keep its high trust ratings.”
Territorial defense, MILF talks
Dellosa said in his assumption speech that his term will focus on four themes: “territorial defense, the full implementation of the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan, disaster preparedness and [carrying] on the organizational reforms.”
Aside from addressing internal armed threats, Dellosa said that the recent developments in the West Philippines Sea have “compeled us” to look into the state of the country’s maritime security.
Aside from lobbying for more government support in upgrading their capabilities, as well as developing Navy and Air Force bases, Dellosa wants strategic bilateral alliances within the region strengthened.
As a Mindanao veteran, Dellosa acknowledged that “a purely military solution” will not solve conflict in some parts of region, pointing out that these “problems” are “multi-faceted.”
“I was also a victim of that war having been wounded in combat twice,” Dellosa said, “I have witnessed how my men fought hard and died in combat, and how their families suffered a lot.”
And as the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) drag, Dellosa gave assurances that the AFP will be committed to the government’s peace efforts but “will continue to deploy a credible deterrent force in the area” to counter lawless groups that may sabotage the peace process.
The outgoing AFP chief, on the other hand, could not help but poke fun at his 9-month term, during his relinquishment remarks.
“Pumasok akong si Oban. Lumabas akong si Oban. Walang baon,” Oban jokingly said, referring to the controversial AFP system of allocating “take-home pay” for retiring ranking officials.
Oban cited the reform measures he implemented, including an 18-point agenda that addressed issues on procurement and logistics management.
The President credited Oban’s term for effectively commissioning the Hamilton Class vessel to the Navy and acquisition of 23 Humvee Ambulances, as part of the administration’s commitment to the modernization program. He also cited Oban for the additional housing for soldiers and educational scholarships for their children.
Oban said he has no immediate plans after his retirement.
“Gusto ko gawin yung di natin nagawa nang ako ay chief-of-staff, ang mag-Jollibee,” Oban said in his speech, referring to the popular Filipino burger joint. – Rappler.com